Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, is to begin putting together his new cabinet on Monday despite uncertainty whether his prospective foreign minister will seek the presidency.
Mr Erdogan's Justice and Development party (AKP), which has its roots in political Islam, won a crushing election victory two weeks ago. But selection of the cabinet has had to wait until the new parliament was sworn in at the weekend.
He will be asked to form a government on Monday by Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the outgoing president. Several new ministers are likely to be named to key portfolios as Mr Erdogan seeks to reinvigorate his economic and social reform programme, breathe life into Turkey's faltering attempt to join the European Union, and tackle a deteriorating relationship with the US caused by the war in Iraq.
However, the foreign affairs portfolio is still in doubt because Abdullah Gul, who has held the post since 2003 and is a close associate of Mr Erdogan, has given no firm hint about his presidential ambitions.
Mr Gul, who has links to Turkey's Islamist movement, was the AKP's candidate for the presidential post in April. His nomination initiated a political crisis and brought an ultimatum from the powerful military, which cited an unspecified threat to the country's secular constitution. The crisis led to the July 22 general election, four months ahead of schedule.
The new president will be elected by the new parliament, in which the AKP has 341 of 550 seats, and Mr Gul has made no secret of his wish to assume the post. It is Turkey's highest civilian office and has traditionally been occupied by either a general or a senior secular political figure.
Opposition parties and much of the media have urged the AKP to select a compromise presidential candidate to avoid another possible clash between the government and the secular and military establishment. Uncertainty on the issue has also made investors nervous about the impact on financial markets.
Despite hints from Mr Erdogan that he would select a compromise candidate, he appears to have left the final decision to Mr Gul. Many AKP MPs insist that the scale of the party's election victory – it won 46 per cent of the vote in an exceptionally high turnout – was a mandate for Mr Gul to become president.
Five political parties, including one representing Turkey's substantial Kurdish minority, are represented in parliament, along with six independent MPs. The swearing-in ceremony on Saturday, in which each MP took an oath to uphold democracy and secularism, lasted more than 10 hours.
The Financial Times
Last Mod: 06 Ağustos 2007, 15:30