by WorldTribune Staff, May 23, 2016
Turkey’s new prime minister wasted no time in confirming he stood firmly behind President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pursuit of a new constitution that will grant the president more power.
Binali Yildirim, a close Erdogan ally for two decades and a co-founder of the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party, was confirmed as prime minister on May 22.
In a speech to AKP delegates, Yildirim, Turkey’s transport minister for most of the past decade and a half, said “Erdogan is a man of purpose, a man of the people, a tireless defender of the great Turkey. We have said with pride, heads held high, we are comrades of Erdogan … Your passion is our passion, your cause our cause, your path our path.”
Yildirim said he would push for a new constitution and the creation of an executive presidency, a change Erdogan says will bring stability to the NATO member state of 78 million, but which opponents fear will herald greater authoritarianism.
“The most important mission we have today is to legalize the de facto situation, to bring to an end this confusion by changing the constitution,” he said. “The new constitution will be on an executive presidential system.”
Yildirim also said that operations against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the largely Kurdish southeast will “continue without pause until the bloody-handed terrorist organization PKK ends its armed actions. I am announcing hereby that operations will end when all our citizens are safe.”
Yildirim was elected as a deputy for Istanbul in November 2002 when the AKP won its first election. He was appointed transport, maritime and communications minister, a post he then almost continuously held in successive governments.
His ties to Erdogan date back to the 1990s when Yildirim, educated in shipbuilding and marine sciences, was in charge of a high-speed ferry company in Istanbul, where Erdogan was mayor.