ADDS MORE REMARKS FROM YILDIRIM
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party on Thursday announced its candidate to assume the chairmanship – and likely, the country’s premiership: Minister of Transport, Maritime and Communications Binali Yildirim.
AK Party Deputy Chairman and spokesperson Omer Celik made the announcement in Ankara, hailing “our esteemed friend” Yildirim and saying he had been chosen by a “huge consensus" within the party.
Speaking to reporters, Yildirim described party congresses as "democracy festivals" and said AK Party congresses differ from those of other parties.
"AK Party congresses are not causes for disintegration, but a matter of further empowering fellowship, ties, and unity," said Yildirim, perhaps referring to last weekend’s aborted congress of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
"From my heart I am expressing my gratitude to the party members [and] the party organization for nominating me as candidate for the general chairmanship at our upcoming congress," said Yildirim.
In his remarks, he stressed that the AK Party is a party that is building the nation’s future while also protecting its past. "We will do our best to reach Turkey's great goals by working with all our colleagues in full harmony," Yildirim said.
Yildirim also touched on his visit starting later today to the southeastern Diyarbakir province, where a PKK bomb attack killed scores of villagers last week, and pledged to end PKK terrorism in the country.
"Nation, rest assured we will get this plague of terrorism off Turkey's agenda," he added.
On May 12, PKK terrorists detonated a bomb-laden truck on May 12 in Durumlu, in Diyarbakir’s Sur district, reportedly following an argument with a group of villagers who spotted the vehicle and began to chase it.
The blast killed 16 people and injured 23 others.
Earlier this month, current Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced he would not stand again for the AK Party chairmanship, a role he currently holds alongside the premiership, meaning he will also be replaced as prime minister.
The announcement came hours after the party's highest decision-making body, the Central Decision and Executive Board (MKYK), gathered around 11.00 a.m. local time (0800GMT).
The chosen candidate is to be elected in an extraordinary congress on Sunday. He is expected to become the country's next prime minister.
- About Binali Yildirim
Binali Yildirim, nominated to be the third chairman and fourth prime minister of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, was a co-founder of the party in August 2001, and has served as transport minister (with other portfolios, including maritime) in five Turkish governments (under Prime Ministers Abdullah Gul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Ahmet Davutoglu).
Yildirim, 60, was born in Refahiye, in the eastern Erzincan province.
Yildirim earned a bachelor’s degree at the Istanbul Technical University's School of Maritime and in 1991 graduated with a Master of Science from Sweden’s World Maritime University.
Under then-Istanbul Mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Yildrim 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 the eastern Erzincan province 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 Greater Municipality but came in second, with 36% percent of the vote.
On Nov. 24, 2015, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reappointed him minister of transport, maritime, and communications.
During Yildirim’s tenure as transport minister, Turkey constructed high-speed rail lines between the capital Ankara and the central Anatolian cities of Eskisehir and Konya.
Yildirim speaks French and English.
Yildirim is married and has three children.