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Change at the top of Turkey's AK Party

Change at the top of Turkey's AK Party
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For Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, becoming president has meant relinquishing both the prime minister’s office and the leadership of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which he helped to found in 2001.

He told party members as he stepped down: “Nobody is eternal. It’s important to leave a good memory behind.”

Ahmet Davutoglu has taken over as AKP leader, but few doubt that Erdogan will retain a strong influence over the party.

The AKP was born out of the ashes of Turkey’s pro-Islamist Welfare Party and brought together members of a number of other conservative parties.

The party went on to win a landslide victory in the 2002 election.

Abdullah Gul became prime minister. He was replaced by Erdogan the following year.

The Turkish Republic, where the vast majority of the population are Muslims, has been a secular state since its foundation in 1923.

The AKP is often called an Islamist party, but it rejects this description – saying its ideology is “conservative democracy”.

Erdogan has said he wants to foster a “pious generation”.

His critics say he is trying to turn Turkey into an authoritarian, religious state.

Several of the AKP’s plans, such as the renovation of Istanbul’s Gezi Park, have sparked large protests.

With Erdogan entering the presidential palace, the party could be set for some new challenges.

Analysts believe old allies Gul and Erdogan are set for a political showdown.

Gul, who has been Turkey’s president for the last seven years, has vowed to return to the AKP, just as Erdogan must leave the party behind.