Turkey has a new Prime Minister, but is it a power grab for the President?
May 22, 2016
prime minister formally submitted his resignation on Sunday, paving the way for his replacement by a trusted ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who immediately expressed allegiance to the Turkish leader and vowed to follow his path.
Erdogan's office said Ahmet Davutoglu resigned hours after the ruling AK Party confirmed Transport and Communications Minister Binali Yildirim as its new chairman in an extraordinary party convention.
Yildirim was the sole candidate for leadership of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP. Traditionally the post of premier goes to the leader of the largest party in parliament, which now makes Yildirim a shoe-in for prime minister.
Erdogan is expected to formally ask Yildirim to form a new government later on Sunday but Davutoglu remains caretaker prime minister until the new government is formed.
Davutoglu announced earlier this month that he was stepping down amid reports of a rift with Erdogan. Yildirim, 60, is widely expected to be more in tune with Erdogan.
"Our path is the path of the voice and the breath of the people, our party's leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan," said Yildirim in a speech to thank delegates who voted overwhelmingly to endorse him.
Yildirim said he would prioritise the need for a new constitution, and vowed to back an executive presidency. Ending ‘confusion’ over Turkey’s EU membership bid was also stressed.
Yildirim, the transport and communications minister and a founding member of AKP, is set to replace Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who announced earlier this month that he would be stepping down amid reports of a rift with Erdogan.
In a message read at the opening of the convention, Erdogan said he hoped the term ahead would help correct the current "skewed" system of administration. Delegates and party officials stood up as his message was read.
"My legal bond with the AKP may have ended the day I took the (presidential) oath of office, but my bonds of love have never ended and never will," Erdogan said.
Supporters credit Yildirim for his role in developing major infrastructure projects which have helped buoy Turkey's economy and boost the party's popularity. But critics, including the leader of the main opposition party, have accused him of corruption. Yildirim has rejected the accusation.
The change in party leadership comes at a time when NATO member Turkey is facing an array of security threats including renewed conflict with Kurdish rebels in the southeast, a wave of suicide bombings linked to Kurdish and Islamic State group militants, as well as growing blowback from the war in neighbouring Syria.
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 Davutoglu helped broker.
Davutoglu, a one-time adviser to Erdogan and a former foreign minister, fell out with the president over an array 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 pushing for a broader definition of terrorism, alarming rights groups who say existing laws are already too widely interpreted to crush dissent. His stance is also at odds with EU conditions for Turkish citizens to benefit from visa-free travel.
Crucially, Erdogan wants to turn the figurehead presidency into an all-powerful position while the independent-minded Davutoglu was believed to be less-than-enthusiastic toward that project. Many believe Yildirim will work to push Erdogan's agenda through.
In his farewell speech, Davutoglu said the extraordinary convention to endorse a new leader was not his wish but that he agreed to it to preserve the unity of the party.
"Our issue, our cause, come above all personal concerns," Davutoglu said. "The sole reason behind my decision to hand over the position is the value I place on the unity of our party and my concern that the AKP movement does not come to any harm."
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