Turkey’s Transport Minister Binali Yildirim emerged the front runner to likely be the new leader of the ruling AK Party and therefore the next prime minister, cementing President Tayyip Erdogan’s hold on government as he seeks to extend his powers.
Yildirim, 60, and a close ally of Erdogan for two decades, will be the sole candidate for the AKP leadership at a special party congress on Sunday, AKP spokesman Omer Celik told a news conference after a meeting of the party’s executive board.A co-founder with Erdogan of the AKP, Yildirim has been the driving force behind major infrastructure projects in Turkey which were one of the pillars of the party’s electoral successes during its first decade in power.He is seen as likely to champion Erdogan’s aim of changing the constitution to create a presidential system, a move opponents say will bring growing authoritarianism, and to support the president’s determination to crush by force an insurgency by militants in the largely Kurdish southeast.
“We will make every effort by working in full harmony primarily with our founding chairman and leader and then our colleagues within all ranks of our party to fulfil the targets of our great Turkey,” Yildirim told a news conference in Ankara.He said he would travel straight to Diyarbakir following his nomination, the main city in the southeast, to visit the site of an explosion which killed 16 people last week. The region has seen some of its worst fighting in recent months since the height of the Kurdish insurgency in the 1990s.
“I would like to say this to our nation just before I leave for Diyarbakir, where I will be sharing the pain of our citizens violently massacred there: my nation should not worry, we will remove this terror menace from Turkey’s agenda.”
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