ISTANBUL - In Turkey, a close ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been selected leader of the country’s ruling party, becoming the presumptive prime minister. The move is seen as the latest step by the president to consolidate his grip on power and his bid to turn Turkey into an executive presidency.
Thousands of members of Turkey’s ruling AKP Party crammed into a congress hall in Ankara to elect unopposed Binali Yildirim as its new leader and the country’s presumptive prime minister. Yildirim, the transport minister, is one Erdogan's closest and longest serving allies.
Yildirim pledged to carry out his president's ambitions. He said the most important job the government needs to do is to adopt a new constitution, and change the constitution to a presidential system.
Erdogan has declared his desire to push through constitutional reform to change the country from a parliamentary democracy to an executive presidency, with few checks and balances.
Critics say that will be a tantamount to an elected dictatorship.
Observers say outgoing Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who formally resigned his post Sunday, is believed to have balked at such changes and was subsequently ousted by the president, even though he was once a close ally.
Sunday’s party congress was eager to present a strong message of unity and there were no visible signs of dissent. Behind the scenes, supporters of the ousted prime minister are reportedly being purged from their positions in the party.
Ankara’s NATO allies who see Turkey as a key member in the war against Islamic State are increasingly voicing concern that Erdogan is turning more authoritarian.
That concern is likely to grow with the ousting of Davutoglu who was seen as having a moderating effect on the president.