Turkish president, PM prepare new inner circle of advisers
The new cabinet members of the government are seen in the Turkish Parliament as former Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has become the country’s prime minister after presidential elections.Within days after taking charge in their new offices, the top two leaders of Turkey have begun picking candidates to compose their strategic inner Cabinets.
The names leaked to the press display the utmost importance attached by both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to have well-equipped teams, particularly in expertise on foreign policy and public diplomacy.
İbrahim Kalın, currently serving as the deputy undersecretary at the Prime Ministry, is expected to be appointed deputy secretary-general of the presidency, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported earlier this week, citing anonymous sources, from Erdoğan’s presidential office.
Kalın worked as general coordinator of the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), a think tank founded in 2005 and was known to be close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) between 2006 and 2009 before beginning to work at the Prime Ministry.
Hasan Doğan, the former prime minister’s chief of the Cabinet for many years who arranged Erdoğan’s daily schedule and followed him step by step, will also move to the presidential office and continue working under the same title.
Both Kalın and Doğan will serve in their capacities as “ambassadors.”
Lütfullah Göktaş, who has worked as chief press adviser for Erdoğan since 2011, will perform the same job at the presidential office. Before being appointed to the Prime Ministry in 2011, Göktaş had long served as the bureau chief of the Anadolu Agency in Rome. Also reporting from the Vatican at the time, Göktaş is an expert on Christian theology.
Principal advisers at the Prime Ministry Aydın Ünal, Mustafa Varank, Savaş Şafak Barkçin and Şenol Kazancı will continue serving Erdoğan with the same titles. These principal advisers, particularly Varank, are known as active Twitter users who campaign for governmental policies and actions.
In March 2014, Varank’s Twitter account was hacked by a group posting messages in solidarity with the protests in memory of Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old teenager who died March 11 after being in a coma for 269 days due to a head injury caused by a teargas canister during the Gezi protests in Istanbul.
Erdoğan’s close aide Yiğit Bulut will be his chief economic adviser, while his adviser Sefer Turan will be his chief adviser for Middle East affairs.
Bulut, an influential but divisive figure, hit international headlines during last summer’s Gezi Park protests when he claimed foreign powers were trying to kill Erdoğan, then prime minister, through telekinesis.
Turan was working as the head of public broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation’s (TRT) Arabic service before being appointed a chief adviser at the Prime Ministry in 2011.
Mücahit Arslan, a confidant of Erdoğan for decades, working as his private adviser, will perform the same job without having any official title at the presidential office.
Hodja and students
As for Davutoğlu, an academic-turned-politician who is also labeled the “Hodja,” or professor, his inner circle of senior staff consists mainly of loyal readers and interpreters of his foreign policy thesis, some of them literally students in his class, either at university or during seminars at the Istanbul-based Science and Art Foundation. Davutoğlu is a co-founder of the foundation, established in 1986.
Taha Özhan, Hatem Ete and Ali Sarıkaya will work as chief advisers. Ertan Aydın will be responsible for political affairs as a chief adviser, while İsmail Küçükarslan will coordinate Davutoğlu’s affairs regarding the Parliament. Seyit Ahmet Işkın will be the chief of the former prime minister’s Cabinet. Osman Sert will be in charge of the press.
Özhan is incumbent general coordinator of SETA, and Ete is working as the director responsible for political research at SETA.
Sarıkaya has been working with Davutoğlu for 12 years, when the latter was working as the chief foreign policy adviser for the AKP government.