Turkey's incoming PM Yildirim says new constitution top priority

Turkey's Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim, accompanied by his wife Semiha Yildirim, greets members of his party during the Extraordinary Congress of the ruling AK Party (AKP) to choose the new leader of the party, in Ankara, Turkey May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Riza Ozel/Pool
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By Humeyra Pamuk and Gulsen Solaker ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's incoming prime minister said his new government's top priority would be a new constitution to create an executive presidency, a move that would give President Tayyip Erdogan the broad powers he has long sought. Binali Yildirim also told a special congress of the ruling AK Party on Sunday that he would continue the fight against Islamic State and Kurdish militants at home and in Syria, saying the change in leadership would not affect the campaign. "The problems of this nation and the love of this nation are the president's responsibility," he said. "The new constitution will be for an executive presidential system." Yildirim, the current transport minister and a close ally of Erdogan for two decades, was the sole candidate for party head, and therefore the next premier. He will replace Ahmet Davutoglu who announced that he would step down this month following weeks of public tension with Erdogan. The official vote is due later in the day, and Yildirim is expected to speak again once he is elected as party head. A co-founder with Erdogan of the AKP, Yildirim has been the driving force behind major infrastructure projects in Turkey 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 - an executive presidency and the fight against militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the largely Kurdish southeast. Erdogan and his supporters see an executive presidency, akin to the system in the United States or France, as a guarantee against the fractious coalition politics that hampered the government in the 1990s. His opponents, including some sceptics within the AKP, say he is merely furthering his own ambition. Yildirim was elected as a deputy for Istanbul in November 2002 when the AKP won its first election. He was appointed transport, maritime and communications minister, a post which he then almost continuously held in successive governments. His ties to Erdogan date back to the 1990s when Yildirim, educated in shipbuilding and marine sciences, was in charge of a high-speed ferry company in Istanbul, where Erdogan was mayor. (Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Keith Weir)

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