Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) has formally tapped Transport Minister Binali Yildirim as its sole candidate to be the party’s new chairman and thereby automatically the next prime minister.
AKP spokesman Omer Celik made the announcement at a news conference after a meeting of the party’s executive board in Ankara on Thursday.
Following “a consultation period and through a large consensus,” Yildirim will stand for the AKP leadership at a special party congress due on Sunday, Celik said.
The 60-year-old minister, a co-founder of the AKP, is seen as a close ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He has served an almost unbroken stint from 2002 to 2013 as the Turkish transport minister and then again from 2015.
Yildirim would replace Ahmet Davutoglu, who announced earlier this month his decision to step down as the AKP head and therefore as premier.
The resignation exposed a rift between Davutoglu and Erdogan over the latter’s attempts to expand his power.
Turkey’s likely next prime minister is expected to back Erdogan’s aim of changing the constitution to create a presidential system instead of the current parliamentary one.
The president argues that the country cannot be run by two strongmen, but opponents warn that the new system will bring growing authoritarianism.
Speaking moments after being confirmed as the sole candidate for the AKP leadership, Yildirim said his nomination was the result of consultation among some 800 key AKP members.
He further pledged to stay in tune with the president's agenda.
“We will make every effort by working in full harmony primarily with our founding chairman and leader and then our colleagues within all ranks of our party to fulfill the targets of our great Turkey,” he said.
The political uncertainty, which emerged in Turkey after Davutoglu’s resignation, has negatively affected financial markets, with the Turkish lira losing five percent in value against the US dollar over the last month.