Binali Yildirim: Political Profile


The new prime-minister of Turkey has inherited a country with many problems. Will he be the key figure to steer away from conflicts and failures to prosperity and peace?

Professional Career

Binali Yildirim previously served as the Minister of Transport, Maritime and Communication from 2002 to 2013, and again between 2015 and 2016. He was appointed as Minister of Transport by Prime Minister Abdullah Gul. Between 2014 and 2015, he served as Senior Advisor to Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Y?ld?r?m was educated at the Istanbul Technical University's School of Maritime in naval architecture and ocean engineering, and later received his masters degree from the same department. He also gained experience in Europe when working with the maritime administrations of different ports for about 6 months.

Yildirim came into contact with Erdogan when he served as the general director of the Istanbul Fast Ferries Company (IDO) from 1994 to 2000 while Recep Tayyip Erdogan was Mayor of Istanbul. IDO became the largest commercial maritime transportation company of its time.

Sovereignty and Protectionism

In general, Yildirim has showed himself to be a good manager as a minister. During his term, railways network were significantly expanded, airports were reconstructed, and new terminals were built. Grandiose, strategic plans are familiar to the current prime minister, one of which is the project of the Istanbul Canal, which would be parallel to the Bosporus and connect the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea.

While liberals and Western media have criticized Yildirim for his Internet censorship, from the point of view of sovereignty, control over social networking is quite justified. Pressure on the Government of Turkey on cyberspace issues began in 2008 before the protests over Internet censorship in Taksim Square in 2010.

Yildirim’s position was quite appropriate: many websites were blocked, “as they post content inappropriate for Turkish families,” said Yildirim.

The  Liberal Lobby’s Reaction

Radio Free Europe, founded by the CIA during Cold War, called Yildirim "the man of millions” (of dollars) and a "close friend" of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. RFE has also remarked that everything will be controlled by Erdogan, with Yildirim having no voice in the Turkish government. 

Al-Monitor, connected with Texas oil business, described Yildirim as a «technocrat without any visible position on controversial issues. He has little charisma and no cadre of "Yildirim-ists" behind him». On the other hand, Al-Monitor labeled Ahmet Davutoglu an important intellectual with his own charisma and followers.

DW reported that Yildirim will be a tool in the autocratic ambitions of Erdogan, while BBC has said that Binali Yildirim is a “low-profile" name.

It is obvious that the main problem for the West is Yildirim’s lack of engagement with liberal ideas. He is not a westerner, but comes from a province and has worked for the interests of Turkey his entire life.  These interests and his work are very specific, but as a result the Turkish people have benefited along with the partners of communication projects.

Next Possible Steps

Yildirim will probably face some difficulties in foreign policy, especially after the many mistakes of Davutoglu, who constructed failed scenarios for the last 10 years. In theory, Davutoglu’s ideas of having “no problems with neighbors” and the “necessity” of deep, strategic contacts with Arabic, African, Balkan, Caucasian, and Asian countries might have seemed good, but only in theory. In practice, this was a catastrophe. Supporting the war in Syria, escalating tensions with Armenia, committing provocations against Russia, and verbally threatening the Balkan countries are all the problems left from Davutoglu which will need to be resolved under Yildirim’s rule. Davutoglu’s Neo-Ottoman project linked to the Washington lobby will also face a downturn, which might have a positive effect on the Middle Eastern and Central Asian regions. Investments from Qatar and Saudi Arabia will remain serious issues since they function as glue, i.e., as important tools for the economy, but also as injections for radicalizing Muslims in Turkey. Yildirim has also refrained from using Muslim discourse and anti-Semitic rhetoric like Davutoglu did. There is also the chance that Turkey will gradually back Kemalism with its secular state agenda.