Erdogan loyalist to be appointed as Turkish PM
Turkey’s Transport Minister Binali Yildirim is set to be appointed head of the ruling party and the country’s new prime minister Sunday, consolidating strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s grip on power.
The 60-year-old replaces in both jobs Ahmet Davutoglu, a former foreign minister who promoted his own ambitious agenda but threw in the towel after a power struggle with Erdogan.
Yildirim — a longstanding and faithful ally of Erdogan — is the only candidate at an extraordinary congress of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that will choose the party chairman.
In a carefully choreographed sequence of events, later in the day Erdogan is due to hand Yildirim the mandate of prime minister, with a new government expected to be formed in the next days.
Analysts expect Yildirim to be a more pliant figure for Erdogan than Davutoglu, as the president presses on with his plan to create a presidential system in Turkey to further consolidate his powers.
– ‘More harmony’ –
Transport minister for almost all of the last one-and-a-half decades, Yildirim has been Erdogan’s pointman for the implementation of his grandiose road and rail infrastructure projects.
“There appears to be more harmony” between Yildirim and the president than in the Davutoglu era, Deniz Zeyrek, the Ankara bureau chief of the Hurriyet daily, told AFP at the congress.
“Binali Yildirim is a more technocrat figure and a man of projects,” he said.
Not known for his charisma, Yildirim made a glitzy entrance in front of thousands at the congress, clad in football scarves and throwing carnations into the crowds to the sound of thumping Turkish pop music.
Divisions between Davutoglu and Erdogan had been boiling for months over a series of issues including Turkey’s battle against Kurdish militants, an accord with the European Union on refugees and the shift from parliamentary to presidential system.
Erdogan’s critics have accused him of authoritarianism, pointing to the growing number of investigations against journalists along with a highly controversial bill adopted by parliament on Friday that would lift immunity for dozens of pro-Kurdish and other MPs and could see them evicted from parliament.
“He (Yildirim) will only have the role of deputy to Erdogan in the (presidential system) that he wants to put in place,” said political commentator Gokhan Bacik.
– ‘Calamity of terror’ –
Another critical task facing the new prime minister will be to negotiate with the European Union on a crunch visa deal, a key plank of an accord aimed at easing the EU’s migrant crisis.
The visa deal has been in jeopardy over Ankara’s reluctance to alter its counter-terror laws, a requirement of the agreement, prompting Erdogan to make a series of critical statements about the EU in recent weeks.
Both Erdogan and Yildirim are strongly opposed to resuming talks with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Kurdish militant group that has killed hundreds of members of the security forces since a two-year-long ceasefire collapsed in 2015.
Yildirim vowed last week to “rid Turkey of the calamity of terrorism” during a symbolic visit to the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in the southeast.
Yildirim worked`as head of the Istanbul ferry company while Erdogan was mayor of the city in the second half of the 1990s.
After the conservative Islamic-rooted AKP won power, he served an almost unbroken stint from 2002 to 2013 and again from 2015 as transport minister.
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