Turkey to get new PM as Erdogan tightens grip

 19 May 2016 - 12:50

Turkey to get new PM as Erdogan tightens grip


Istanbul: Turkey's ruling party was expected to name on Thursday a close ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as prime minister, as the strongman seeks to tighten his grip on power.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was poised to appoint Transport Minister Binali Yildirim as its chairman, meaning he would automatically become prime minister.

Yildirim would replace Ahmet Davutoglu, who stepped down after a power struggle with Erdogan.

The 60-year-old Yildirim is seen as one of Erdogan's closest longtime confidants and has served an almost unbroken stint from 2002 to 2013 as transport minister and then again from 2015.

Analysts expect that Yildirim -- who has never stepped out of line with the president on a policy issue -- will prove a far more pliable figure for the president than Davutoglu.

The new prime minister's main task, observers say, will be to pilot a change in the constitution to transform Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential system, placing more power in Erdogan's hands.

After the official appointment expected on Sunday, "the post of prime minister will have changed its meaning," said Fuat Keyman, head of the Istanbul Policy Center think-tank.

"The president will become the head of the executive. The prime minister will become a functional cog," Keyman told AFP.

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 AKP central executive committee meets on Thursday to announce a single candidate for party leadership.

The candidate will then be approved as new AKP leader by an extraordinary congress of the party on Sunday.

According to AKP convention, the posts of party chief and head of government automatically go to the same figure.