Erdogan may get wider powers

MASTER’S VOICE: Turkey’s New Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Picture: REUTERS
MASTER’S VOICE: Turkey’s New
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Picture: REUTERS

TURKEY’S incoming prime minister said yesterday his top priority was to deliver a new constitution to create an executive presidency, giving President Tayyip Erdogan the broad powers he has sought.

As delegates from the ruling AK Party unanimously elected Transport Minister Binali Yildirim as their new party leader, and therefore the next premier, Yildirim left no doubt he would prioritise policies closest to Erdogan’s heart.

An ally of Erdogan for two decades, the 60-year-old was the sole candidate at the special congress, called after Ahmet Davutoglu said he would step down this month, following weeks of public tension with Erdogan.

Yildirim said a new constitution was necessary to legitimise the existing situation, in what appeared to be a tacit acknowledgment that Erdogan had gone beyond the presidency’s traditionally ceremonial role.

“The most important mission we have is to legalise the de facto situation, to bring to an end this confusion by changing the constitution. The new constitution will be on an executive presidential system.” A total of 1 411 delegates voted, with 1 405 votes declared valid. Yildirim won all of the valid votes.

A co-founder with Erdogan of the AKP, Yildirim has been the driving force behind major infrastructure projects, which were one of the pillars of the party’s electoral successes during its first decade in power.

He has been seen as someone who will help pursue two of Erdogan’s biggest priorities – the executive presidency and the fight against militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the largely Kurdish southeast.

“They are asking us when the anti-terror operations will end. I am announcing hereby that the operations will end when all our citizens are safe,” Yildirim said.

“Operations will continue without pause until the bloody-handed terrorist organisation PKK ends its armed actions.”

Erdogan and his supporters see an executive presidency, akin to the system in the US or France, as a guarantee against the fractious coalition politics that hampered the government in the 1990s.

His opponents, including some within the AKP, say he is merely furthering his own ambition.

“If they can succeed, this will be a transition period for the executive presidency,” journalist Abdulkadir Selvi, who is seen as close to the AKP, said.

For investors, the key point will now be the future of Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek, seen as one of the remaining anchors of market confidence.

Erdogan, who favours consumption-led growth, has repeatedly railed against high interest rates in Turkey, saying they cause inflation, a stance at odds with mainstream economics.

Without Simsek, investors fear, it will be less likely that the government will deliver on promises to liberalise the labour market, encourage savings and bring in more private investment.

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