ANKARA (AA) - Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party on Thursday nominated Transport, Maritime and Communications Minister Binali Yildirim to serve as the party’s next chairman, following Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s decision not to serve out the remainder of his term.
Yildirim, 60, has a political career spanning over a decade on his path to becoming party leader and the nation’s next prime minister.
A co-founder of the AK Party in August 2001, Yildirim is Turkey’s longest-serving transport minister – with other portfolios, including maritime – in five Turkish governments, under Abdullah Gul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Ahmet Davutoglu as successive premiers.
As transport minister, Yildirim shepherded through several major projects, including high-speed rail lines connecting the capital Ankara to Istanbul and the central Anatolian cities of Eskisehir and Konya, as well as Istanbul’s Marmaray underwater rail tunnel, the Eurasia Tunnel – a roadway tunnel connecting Istanbul's European and Asian sides – and Istanbul’s third bridge over the Bosphorus, the latter two set to open later this year.
However, Yildirim’s path to success had humble beginnings.
He was born on Dec. 20, 1955 in Refahiye, a town in Turkey’s eastern Erzincan province. At age 16, Yildirim lost his mother, who was 38. He said his greatest joy as a child was to lie in the fields and watch airplanes fly overhead.
While gazing at the airplanes, Yildirim would say to himself: "I wonder if I will be able to ride one of those. I wonder what it would feel like to fly."
Moving into adulthood, Yildirim earned a bachelor’s degree at the Istanbul Technical University's School of Maritime. He later graduated with a Master of Science from Sweden’s World Maritime University in 1991.
Under then-Istanbul Mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Yildirim served as director general of the Istanbul Fast Ferries Company (IDO) in 1994-2000.
Yildirim won his first seat in the Turkish parliament as a deputy for Istanbul in the fall 2002 general elections, which swept the AK Party into power, and served as minister of transport and communications through 2007.
In the 2007 general elections, he was elected an AK Party deputy from his home province of Erzincan and continued his tenure as transport and communications minister.
After being elected as a deputy from the Mediterranean province of Izmir in the 2011 general elections, Yildirim became minister of transport, maritime, and communications.
In 2014, he ran for mayor of the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality but came in second, with 36 percent of the vote.
This March, Yildirim helped usher in 4.5G technology, giving Turkish cellphone users access to data 10 times faster than the previous 3G.
Last November, after the fall general elections took the AK Party to a new term, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reappointed Yildirim minister of transport, maritime, and communications.
Yildirim speaks French and English, and is married with three children.