Turkey politics: Incoming PM urges move to presidential rule

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Binali Yildirim and his wife Semiha at the AKP congress in Ankara, 22 MayImage source, EPA
Image caption,
Binali Yildirim appeared at the party congress with his wife Semiha

The ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has been nominated as the country's new prime minister has called for a move to presidential rule.

Addressing a congress of the ruling AK Party before it confirmed him as party leader, Binali Yildirim called for a new constitution.

He said it was time to make the current "de facto situation" a "legal" one.

Mr Erdogan came to office in 2014 when Turkey held its first presidential election by direct national vote.

Previously, presidents had been elected by parliament.

As leader of the party, Mr Yildirim has been asked to form Turkey's next government.

The promotion of Mr Yildirim, who was previously transport minister, comes after Ahmet Davutoglu quit as prime minister over a rift with Mr Erdogan.

Among challenges Turkey faces are security threats from PKK Kurdish militants and the Islamic State (IS) group, and its ambition to join the EU while tackling the migrant crisis.

A role effectively scrapped: Mark Lowen, BBC News, Ankara

Image source, AP
Image caption,
A banner of Binali Yildirim (left) and Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the AKP congress

He does not ooze political pizzazz but Binali Yildirim has been named as the next AK Party leader for his loyalty to President Erdogan.

He is succeeding Ahmet Davutoglu, forced out for disagreeing with the president on some policies and doubting Mr Erdogan's aim of changing the constitution to enhance his own position.

The president's critics fear his tightening of power, some Western leaders finding him hard to deal with and opponents believing an unchecked Mr Erdogan will clamp down further on dissent.

The president's diehard supporters, mainly conservative, pious Turks, still see him as the man who gave them a political voice, insisting he is right to exert his control.

What is clear is that the incoming prime minister will not step out of line with Mr Erdogan, even ready to support a constitutional change that would see his role effectively scrapped.

Mr Yildirim was the sole candidate for party leader and prime minister at the extraordinary AKP congress in Ankara.

"Turkey needs a new constitution," he told the AKP congress, to applause.

"Are you ready to bring in a presidential system?"

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The BBC speaks to supporters of three different parties, whose views show how divided the country has become

"What has to be a priority now is moving from the current de facto system to a legal system," he said.

On Turkey's long-standing EU membership bid, he said: "There is one thing that needs to be done by the European Union.

"This confusion over Turkey's full membership and the migrant issue has to be brought to an end. It is time for us to know what the EU thinks about Turkey."

He vowed to continue the struggle against Kurdish militants and IS. A ceasefire between Turkey and the PKK ended weeks after elections in June 2015, and the renewed conflict has claimed hundreds of lives on both sides, particularly in the south-east.

Mr Davutoglu, who resigned two weeks ago, also addressed the congress, praising the party and Mr Erdogan, but saying that it had not been his choice to step down.

Image source, Riza Ozel
Image caption,
Ahmet Davutoglu (right) sat alongside Mr Yildirim and his wife at the congress in Ankara

"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," he said.

Suat Kinkliogu, a member of the AKP's executive board until he quit politics, told the BBC that executive power was in effect being concentrated in the president's hands.

"Unfortunately President Erdogan has taken all of the strings of the party, the state and the parliament and this appointment pretty much means we will see a much more low-profile prime minister who will be very compliant and going along with what Mr Erdogan wants him to do," he said.