Saturday 21 April 2018

Turkey's ruling party unveils prime minister candidate

Binali Yildirim has been announced by AKP as its candidate to be the next prime minister of Turkey
Binali Yildirim has been announced by AKP as its candidate to be the next prime minister of Turkey

Turkey's governing party has unveiled Binali Yildirim as its candidate to be the country's next prime minister.

Officials of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, made the announcement on Thursday.

Mr Yildirim is Turkey's minister of transport, maritime and communication as well as a founding member of the AKP. He will run unopposed for the party leadership at a special convention to be held on Sunday in Ankara.

The shake-up comes after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stepped down on May 4 over differences with the president.

Analysts expect his successor to be more in tune with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is pushing for a constitutional overhaul that would concentrate greater powers in his hands.

AKP spokesman Omer Celik said Mr Yildirim, from Izmir, was chosen "with great consensus".

Traditionally, the post of premier in Turkey goes to the leader of the largest party in parliament.

Supporters credit Mr Yildirim for his role in developing the president's signature infrastructure projects, which have helped buoy Turkey's economy and boost the party's popularity.

The change in party leadership comes at a time when Turkey, a member of the Nato alliance, is facing multiple security threats including renewed conflict with Kurdish rebels in the south-east, a wave of suicide bombings linked to Kurdish and Islamic State militants, as well as coming under pressure from the war in neighbouring Syria.

"I will take this terror trouble off Turkey's agenda," said Mr Yildirim addressing his party. He also thanked Mr Davutoglu for his services.

The transition also coincides with growing tensions with the European Union over a controversial deal to reduce the flow of illegal migrants from Turkey to Greece, which Mr Davutoglu helped to broker.

Mr Davutoglu, once a close ally of Mr Erdogan, fell out with the president over a number of issues including the possibility of peace talks with Kurdish rebels, the pre-trial detention of journalists accused of spying and academics accused of supporting terrorism.

Turkey's president is advocating for a broader definition of terrorism, one that alarms rights groups who say existing laws are already used to crush dissent. That stance is also at odds with EU conditions for Turkish citizens to benefit from visa-free travel.

Many believe Mr Yildirim, a technocrat, will have even less influence than his predecessor and only enjoy a short-lived mandate.

Turkish political analyst and journalist Mustafa Akyol said: "We all know that the president wants to change the constitution and make Turkey have a transition to the so-called presidential system."

He said the AKP has become "totally marked by the president" and the prime ministry has lost its importance.

Press Association

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