Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been sworn in as Turkey’s first popularly elected president, a position that will keep him in the nation’s driving seat for at least another five years.
He promptly appointed his close ally, foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, to succeed him as prime minister. The 55-year-old former academic is expected to announce his new Cabinet tomorrow.
Mr Erdogan has dominated Turkish politics for a decade and won the country’s first direct presidential elections on August 10.
He has indicated that he wants to transform the presidency from a largely ceremonial post into a more powerful position and is expected to hold sway in the running of the country. He intends to exercise the full powers of the presidency, including summoning Cabinet meetings.
Taking the oath in parliament, he said: “As president I swear on my pride and honour that I will protect the state, its independence, the indivisible unity of the nation … and that I will abide by the constitution, the rule of law, democracy … and the principle of the secular republic.”
Later, he headed to the mausoleum of the nation’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, where he wrote in the visitors’ book: “Today, the day the first president elected by the people takes office, is the day Turkey is born from its ashes.”
Legislators from Turkey’s main opposition party left parliament minutes before Mr Erdogan arrived in protest at the man they accuse of not respecting the country’s constitution. A legislator was seen throwing a copy of the constitution towards the parliamentary speaker, complaining that he was not allowed to speak.
Mr Erdogan “will pledge allegiance to the constitution but he will lie. I don’t want to witness that lie,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the opposition party’s leader, who snubbed the inauguration ceremony.
Mr Erdogan said he would work “hand in hand” with Mr Davutoglu to end divisions in Turkey, strive to further improve the economy, carry out democratic reforms and advance the country’s bid to join the European Union.
“Our march toward the EU will continue in a more determined way. Our democratic reforms won’t lose speed,” he said.
Yesterday, Mr Erdogan rejected claims that Mr Davutoglu would merely do his bidding.
Mr Erdogan has been a divisive figure. He is adored by supporters after presiding over a decade of relative prosperity. But he is also despised by many for taking an increasing authoritarian tack and is accused of trying to impose his religious and conservative mores on a nation that has secular traditions.