Transport minister Binali Yildirim has been chosen to stand as the sole candidate for the position of chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) during its congress on 22 May, party spokesperson Omer Celik announced on Thursday, meaning he should be Turkey’s new prime minister by next week.
A founding member of the AKP, Yildirim has served as transport minister for 12 years and has developed a reputation as the right-hand man of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He also worked closely alongside Erdogan as chief of Istanbul’s’s water-based transport company during the latter’s days as city mayor from 1994 to 1997.
Like most politicians, Yildirim, 60, probably dreamed of this moment for most of his adult life. But this delicate tightrope act that awaits him is unlikely to have been part of his dreams.
He also probably didn’t envisage the prime ministerial job not being the highest executive position in the country.
The manner and circumstances that led to him attaining this position means he will have to finely balance asserting his authority and being obedient to Erdogan, who was a founder of the AKP and has time and again demonstrated that he still remains its most influential figure.
Yildirim is considered to enjoy Erdogan’s complete trust. In 2014 local elections he even relinquished his position as minister to embark on the near impossible task of becoming Izmir’s mayor upon Erdogan’s and his party’s request.
Izmir remains the last and strongest bastion of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).