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Erdogan loyalist to be appointed as Turkish PM

Turkey's Minister of Transport, Maritime and Communication and new chairman candidate for ruling AK Party Binali Yildirim (R) flanked by his wife Semiha Yildirim (L), greets supporters as he attends the second extraordinary congress of the AK Party at the Ankara Arena in Ankara, on May 22, 2016. Transport Minister Binali Yildirim is set to be appointed head of Turkey's ruling party and the new prime minister on May 22, consolidating the grip on power of strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The 60-year-old replaces in both jobs Ahmet Davutoglu, a former foreign minister who promoted his own ambitious agenda but threw in the towel after a power struggle with Erdogan. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / RIZA OZEL


Ankara / AFP

Turkey’s Transport Minister Binali Yildirim will be formally appointed as head of the ruling party and as the new prime minister on Sunday, strengthening the grip on power of his mentor President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Yildirim—a longstanding and faithful ally of Erdogan—is the only candidate at an extraordinary congress of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Sunday that will choose the party
chairman, meaning he will become prime minister. His main task in the post, observers say, will be to push through a change in the constitution to transform Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential system, placing more power in Erdogan’s hands.
The 60-year-old will replace Ahmet Davutoglu, who threw in the towel after a bitter power struggle with Erdogan.
Divisions between Davutoglu and Erdogan had been boiling for months over a series of issues including Turkey’s peace process with the Kurdish militants, an accord with the European Union on refugees and the shift from parliamentary to presidential system.
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 and allow Erdogan to further consolidate his powers.
“Yildirim could be the last prime minister of Turkey..,” said political commentator Gokhan Bacik. “He will only have the role of deputy to Erdogan in the (presidential system) that he wants to put in place”. The analyst also predicted that Erdogan would oversee foreign and economic policy in the new cabinet.
Erdogan’s critics have accused him of authoritarian behaviour, pointing to the growing number of investigations pursued against journalists along with a highly controversial bill adopted by parliament on Friday that would lift immunity for dozens of pro-Kurdish and other MPs and could see them evicted from parliament.
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 visa deal has been in jeopardy over Ankara’s reluctance to alter its counter-terror laws, a requirement of the agreement, prompting Erdogan to make a series of critical statements about the EU in recent weeks. Both Erdogan and Yildirim are strongly opposed to resuming talks with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Kurdish militant group that has claimed responsibility for several attacks across Turkey since a two-year-long ceasefire collapsed in 2015.
Yildirim vowed last week to “rid Turkey of the calamity of terrorism” during a symbolic visit to the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in the southeast.

Curfew lifted in parts of Diyarbakir 

Istanbul / AP

Turkish authorities have lifted a long-standing curfew from parts of a historic neighborhood in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir.
Security operations to flush out youths and fighters linked to a Kurdish armed movement have been underway in Diyarbakir since December.
A focal point of those operations has been Sur, a district famed for its ancient city walls and Hevsel Gardens listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The authorities said on Sunday they were lifting the curfew from several streets in the historic neighborhood after restoring security.
Turkish security forces are locked in a conflict with militants linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in several parts of the southeast.

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