Erdoğan announces major Cabinet reshuffle
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced revisions in the Cabinet on Friday after receiving approval from President Abdullah Gül in the wake of the March 29 local elections and amid the ongoing global financial crisis. Whereas eight ministers were excluded from the Cabinet, nine new individuals started to carry ministerial titles just hours before the start of the weekend. On the other hand, seven ministers now have different seats in the 27-member ministers' club, including Erdoğan himself.
With the revisions, Deputy Prime Minister Nazım Ekren, Minister of Justice Mehmet Ali Şahin, Minister of Finance Kemal Unakıtan, Minister of Education Hüseyin Çelik, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Mehmet Hilmi Güler, Minister of State Murat Başesgioğlu, Minister of State Kürşad Tüzmen and Minister of State Mustafa Said Yazıcıoğlu were left out of the Cabinet. Erdoğan said those removals from office have nothing to do with any mistakes made by any of those former ministers.
Whereas the aforementioned eight ministers were removed from Erdoğan's Cabinet, nine new names stepped into ministerial posts. The most striking appointments were those of Bülent Arınç and Ahmet Davutoğlu. Arınç became one of the three deputy prime ministers, and Professor Davutoğlu is now Turkey's new minister of foreign affairs, taking over the post from Ali Babacan. Babacan was made a deputy prime minister as well and will be responsible for the coordination of country's economy. The last deputy prime minister is still Cemil Çiçek, who maintained his seat.
Arınç and Davutoğlu received the most media attention, starting just minutes after Erdoğan's announcement. Davutoğlu was the chief foreign policy advisor to Erdoğan, so his appointment was not considered a surprise, but he garnered attention because he became a minister from outside Parliament for a single party government, which has 338 seats. Since Davutoğlu is so active in the Middle East, some say that during his term in office, Turkey may be a little reluctant to speed up EU reforms. "It is important that Davutoğlu does not drop the EU ball. A key reason the Middle East looks to Turkey is the country's prospect of membership, and the same goes for investors," said Hugh Pope, an analyst for the International Crisis Group.
Earlier this year, Erdoğan named Egemen Bağış as Turkey's first full-time EU negotiator, a move welcomed by Brussels. Bağış retained his seat after the revisions.
Arınç, on the other hand, has been a deputy in the Parliament for 14 years now, and a prominent politician in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). He has lately appeared as a figure in a dispute with military officials over the alleged voice recordings of former generals revealing their coup plans. In his new post, Arınç will be attending the National Security Council (MGK) meetings. Regarding this tension, he said that he is committed to his understanding of politics and will maintain his stand for Turkey's interests in his new appointment.
According to the Turkish prime minister's announcement, Selma Aliye Kavaf and Cevdet Yılmaz, two of those nine new faces in the Cabinet, became ministers of state. Among the remainder of the newcomers are Nihat Ergün as the minister of industry and commerce, Sadullah Ergin as the minister of justice, Ömer Dinçer as the minister of labor and social security, Taner Yıldız as the minister of energy and natural resources and Mustafa Demir as the minister of public works and settlement.
As well as Bağış and Çiçek, Vecdi Gönül, Beşir Atalay, Recep Akdağ, Binali Yıldırım, Mehdi Eker, Ertuğrul Günay and Veysel Eroğlu retained their seats.
Besides Babacan, six other ministers' positions were changed in the Cabinet. Hayati Yazıcı was appointed to be a minister of state from the position of deputy prime minister; former State Ministers Mehmet Şimşek and Nimet Çubukçu became the minister of finance and the minister of education, respectively. Faruk Nafiz Özak, Zafer Çağlayan and Faruk Çelik left their posts and became state ministers, too. The distribution of duties among the state ministers has not yet been determined and will be announced later on.
Babacan, as Erdoğan's new economy czar, will tackle an economy expected to go into recession this year. Erdoğan's decision was interpreted as being part of a wide reshuffle aimed at shoring up his party's popularity, which was reduced in the March local elections. "I decided to make changes in the economic administration. We wanted the economy minister to be much more powerful and manage the economy with a single hand," Erdoğan had said at a previous news conference. He reiterated this point in Friday's announcement and said Babacan will be the new coordinator of the Turkish economy. He was minister of state for the economy before he was appointed as minister of foreign affairs, his previous post.
The AK Party received a blow in the March 29 local elections, but managed to retain almost 40 percent of the vote. The reduction was mostly attributed to the impact of the ongoing economic downturn. The country's economy was announced as being expected to contract by 3.6 percent in 2009 by former Minister of State Ekren. However, Turkey's once-booming economy is expected by foreign authorities, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to shrink even more in 2009, as the global financial crisis hammers exports and domestic demand. Ekren was believed to have been removed from his post because of the poor performance of the Turkish economy. He is known for having a theoretical approach to the economy mainly because of his academic career, a situation thought to hinder the government from taking immediate steps to recover from the impact of the crisis. However, the removal from office of another main stakeholder in country's economy, former Minister of Finance Unakıtan, was announced by Prime Minister Erdoğan as due solely to his health problems. Unakıtan underwent heart bypass surgery in the US in February of this year.
One of the other ministers affected by the global financial turmoil is Şimşek. He was a minister of state for treasury and for having stand-by talks with the IMF. Şimsek had been criticized by business groups for his handling of the economy and for slow talks with the IMF. Turkey is expected to sign that IMF deal soon, as positive signals keep coming from both sides about the way taken so far. An IMF deal will likely improve investor confidence, which was shaken by the global crisis, and risk aversion.
The new Cabinet:
- Prime Minister: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
- State Minister and Deputy Prime Minister: Cemil Çiçek
- State Minister and Deputy Prime Minister: Bülent Arınç
- State Minister and Deputy Prime Minister: Ali Babacan
- State Minister: Egemen Bağış
- State Minister: Hayati Yazıcı
- State Minister: Mehmet Aydın
- State Minister: Faruk Nafiz Özak
- State Minister: Mehmet Zafer Çağlayan
- State Minister: Faruk Çelik
- State Minister: Cevdet Yılmaz
- State Minister: Selma Aliye Kavaf
- Justice Minister: Sadullah Ergin
- National Defense Minister: Vecdi Gönül
- Interior Minister: Beşir Atalay
- Foreign Minister: Ahmet Davutoğlu
- Finance Minister: Mehmet Şimşek
- National Education Minister: Nimet Çubukçu
- Public Works and Housing Minister: Mustafa Demir
- Health Minister: Recep Akdağ
- Transportation Minister: Binali Yıldırım
- Agriculture and Rural Affairs Minister: Mehmet Mehdi Eker
- Labor and Social Security Minister: Ömer Dinçer
- Industry and Trade Minister: Nihat Ergün
- Energy and Natural Resources Minister: Taner Yıldız
- Culture and Tourism Minister: Ertuğrul Günay
- Environment and Forestry Minister: Veysel Eroğlu