ANKARA • Turkey's experienced Transport Minister Binali Yildirim, a steadfast ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was yesterday named ruling party chief.
He was also set to be also appointed prime minister in moves further consolidating the Turkish strongman's grip on power.
The 60-year-old replaced in both jobs Mr Ahmet Davutoglu, a former foreign minister who promoted his own ambitious agenda, but threw in the towel after a power struggle with Mr Erdogan.
Mr Yildirim - a long-standing and faithful ally of Mr Erdogan - was the only candidate at an extraordinary congress of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that chose the party chairman. In a carefully choreographed sequence of events, Mr Erdogan was to hand Mr Yildirim the mandate of prime minister, with a new government expected to be formed in the coming days.
Analysts expect Mr Yildirim to be a more pliant figure for Mr Erdogan than Mr Davutoglu, as the President presses on with his plan to create a presidential system in Turkey to further consolidate his powers.
"Turkey needs a new Constitution. Are you ready to bring in a presidential system?" Mr Yildirim told the congress to cheers from the crowd, saying this was the way to end the current "confusion".
Transport minister for almost all of the last 15 years, Mr Yildirim has been Mr Erdogan's point man for the implementation of his grandiose road and rail infrastructure projects.
Divisions between Mr Davutoglu and Mr Erdogan had been boiling for months over a series of issues including Turkey's battle against Kurdish militants, an accord with the European Union on refugees and the shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system.
Mr Erdogan's critics have accused him of authoritarianism, pointing to the growing number of investigations against journalists along with a highly controversial Bill adopted by Parliament last Friday that would lift immunity for dozens of pro-Kurdish and other MPs and could see them evicted from Parliament.
A critical task facing the new prime minister will be to negotiate with the European Union on a crunch visa deal, a key plank of an accord aimed at easing the EU's migrant crisis.