Former Turkish prime minister to run for Istanbul mayor
Former Turkey Prime Minister Binali Yildirim will represent the country's ruling party in next year's mayoral elections for Istanbul, it was announced on Saturday.
The move could see Yildirim in a bid to ensure Turkey's biggest city remains in its hands after 2019 elections.
Yildirim served as prime minister between 2016 and 2018 under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and has been tipped as clear favourite for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) role.
He was the last premier of Turkey before the parliamentary system was officially replaced with an executive presidency with Erdogan taking the reins in the country.
The Istanbul mayor role is an important and prestigious position, once held by Erdogan.
He was there to introduce Yildirim as the candidate for the AKP in the upcoming 31 March vote during a televised ceremony.
So important is the position, Erdogan once reportedly told his party: "If we lose Istanbul, we lose Turkey."
The key city is home to over 15 million people out of a population of over 80 million.
Yildirim, who was made parliamentary speaker after elections in June this year, has been a keen ally of Erdogan having previously served as transport minister.
The 63-year-old was born into a poor family in a village in the eastern province of Erzincan and later became a maritime engineer.
Erdogan appointed him to run the city's ferry company in the 1990s and has also served as a lawmaker for Istanbul.
Last year, Kadir Topbas - who was the AKP's Istanbul mayor for 13 years - was replaced as Erdogan sought to refresh the ruling party before national and local elections.
The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) recently announced Ekrem Imamoglu as its Istanbul candidate, who is currently mayor of the city's Beylikduzu district.