Loyalists dominate President Erdogan’s new Cabinet in Turkey

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s new Cabinet will have wide-ranging powers in the country’s leadership, dubbed by some as the beginning of a “one-man rule.”
The new Cabinet is made up of ultra-loyalists and close confidants of Erdogan.
With the Turkish lira falling against other currencies and deepening concerns about the central bank’s independence, Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, was named as treasury and finance minister.
Mehmet Simsek, a former Merrill Lynch banker who was deputy prime minister in the previous government, was left out of the Cabinet’s economic management team, although he was seen as the country’s main interlocutor with foreign investors.
The Cabinet line-up was not welcomed by foreign markets as Turkish lira continued its sharp plunge against the US dollar and euro.
Cem Baslevent, an economics professor at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, said foreign investors would need at least two months to rebuild trust in the Cabinet.
“Until then they will remain skeptical,” he told Arab News.
According to Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director of German Marshall Fund of the US, by choosing his son-in-law as finance minister, Erdogan has opted for change.
“It had become a tradition in Turkey to have an economy czar who would be perceived favorably by the international markets and appease them when necessary. But Albayrak shares Erdogan’s economic views, which create anxiety in the international markets,” he told Arab News.
Unluhisarcikli said that Albayrak viewed the Turkish lira’s fall as the result of a “foreign-origin plot” aimed at ousting the government.
Most experts say the appointment of such a loyal figure may hint at an expansionary fiscal policy, which is likely to create inflationary pressure.
Despite rumors that he would name his presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin as foreign minister, Erdogan retained Mevlut Cavusoglu in the post, with Suleyman Soylu named as interior minister.
“By keeping Cavusoglu as foreign minister, Erdogan opted for continuity in foreign policy,” Unluhisarcikli said.
“By doing so, he has eliminated the risk of interrupting important processes such as negotiations with the US to break the deadlock in bilateral relations,” he said.
Erdogan will meet his US counterpart Donald Trump and other leaders at a NATO summit in Brussels this week.
The Turkish leader abolished the Ministry for EU Affairs, handing its responsibility to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a radical shift of priorities in the country’s bid for EU membership.
In another surprising move, Turkish Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar was named minister of defense. Akar has built close links with Erdogan over Turkey’s military operations in Syria and Iraq.
Timur Akhmetov, a Turkey analyst and researcher at the Russian International Affairs Council, believes Akar’s appointment is a sign of the politicization of the country’s army.
Commander of Turkish Land Forces, Gen. Yasar Guler, was named Chief of General Staff with a new presidential decree.
Ruhsar Pekcan, from Turkey’s Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey, is trade minister.
Erdogan appointed Fuat Oktay as his sole vice president. Oktay has experience in the US in companies such as Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. He is known as a good crisis handler, especially when he was in charge of emergency management during Turkey’s open-door policy for Syrians taking shelter in the country.

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