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UPDATE 1-Turkish PM changes four ministers in cabinet reshuffle

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

* Reshuffle had been expected after party congress

* Close Erdogan allies appointed

* Erdogan expected to stand in presidential election (Adds details and context)

By Gulsen Solaker

ANKARA, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan replaced his interior, tourism, health, and education ministers with close allies on Thursday in a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle ahead of an election cycle starting next year.

Cabinet changes had been on the cards since Erdogan's AK Party, in power for more than a decade, held a major congress in September in which a new administrative body was picked to steer it through the forthcoming elections, including a presidential vote in which Erdogan is expected to run.

Erdogan named Muammer Guler, a former Istanbul governor, as his new interior minister and Omer Celik, a vice chairman of the AK Party, as his new culture and tourism minister, according to a statement from his office.

Mehmet Muezzinoglu, a medical doctor and former AK Party leader for Istanbul, was named health minister while Nabi Avci, a former adviser to Erdogan and an architect of controversial school reforms last year, was made education minister.

Turkey is due to hold local elections in March 2014, followed by a presidential vote a few months later and a parliamentary election in 2015.

Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics since the AK Party came to power in 2002, is widely viewed as wanting to consolidate his position by becoming the head of state in a newly constituted executive presidency.

Under the current system, the president is a largely ceremonial figure.

The AK Party aims to create an executive presidency under a new or modified constitution, which the government says will replace a document drawn up after a 1980 coup and advance Turkey's democratisation.

Erdogan's plans will be challenged by other parties in parliament who fear such a reform will hand him too much power. (Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Jonathon Burch)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130124/update-1-turkish-pm-changes-four-ministers-cabinet-reshuffle