ANKARA (AA) – Thousands of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party delegates began voting in a two-round intraparty election process to reveal a new chairman during an extraordinary congress at the Arena Sports Hall in Ankara Sunday.
On Thursday, AK Party had announced Binali Yildirim, the current minister of transport, maritime and communications, as its nominee for party chairmanship, who, if elected Sunday, is likely to be the country’s next prime minister as well.
In the first step of the election process, a total of 1,470 delegates elect the party’s 50-member Central Decision and Administrative Board, Central Disciplinary Board, Political Wisdom Ethical Board and Intraparty Democracy Arbitration Board. In the second round, delegates elect the party chairman.
Both rounds are being held simultaneously at the congress, which is expected to end by 4 p.m. local time (1300GMT).
Speaking ahead of the vote, Yildirim, who is expected to get elected comfortably in the election process, said the change in AK Party leadership "is a means to open doors of new services to be done only and solely for the nation."
He backed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call for new a constitution and a presidential system of governance.
"Our president received votes of our millions of citizens and bears their responsibilities…That's why, the most importing work we must do today is to make this de facto situation legal and end this confusion. Its way out is a new constitution, a presidential system in the new constitution," Yildirim said.
He also pledged to continue military operations against the terrorist PKK organization in the country’s southeast.
"I declare here to my nation, these operations will continue until the security of life and property, and peace of citizens living in the region are maintained…These operations will continue until the PKK organization ends its bloody armed acts," he said.
He also vowed to fight against Daesh and the “parallel structure,” which is said to be run by U.S.-based preacher Fetullah Gulen.
"We will never and ever give credence to parallel structures, separatist gangs. There will be no place in this country for betrayers.
"Everyone should know it well that there is just one state in Turkey and it is the Republic of Turkey," Yildirim said.
The outgoing Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, also addressed the crowd, terming the ongoing second extraordinary congress as a congress of "loyalty".
"We have kept pacta sunt servanda [Latin for ‘agreements must be kept’] above everything. We bid farewell to posts, positions, and chair, but will never bid farewell to our vow, principles, and case.
"We are not in pursuit of temporary agendas, but permanent wisdom. Neither will we be derailed nor trapped nor we will forget our horizon, case, and love and ambition," Davutoglu said.
He said "none of us in this [AK Party] movement is indispensable, but his movement has values and principles, which has not been abandoned or will be abandoned."
He added that the AK Party "has been the party of entire Turkey, and will remain so."
On May 5, Davutoglu announced that he would not stand again for the AK Party chairmanship.
Earlier, Yildirim and Davutoglu arrived at the Arena Sports Hall along with their families. Both leaders threw flowers into the crowd after their arrival, who were warmly received by AK Party members from all over the country.
Erdogan had praised the consensus among AK Party members in choosing their nominee.