Davutoğlu keeps Erdoğan’s Cabinet with few changes
Incoming Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu arrives at the Prime Ministry building in Ankara on Aug. 29, 2014. AA photoWith incoming Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu at the helm, Turkey’s newly-minted Cabinet, announced on Aug. 29, represents only a small variation on the previous one. The names in the new Cabinet were announced just one day after new President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan officially took office at the presidential Çankaya Palace.
Erdoğan met Davutoğlu late on Aug. 28 and tasked him with forming a Council of Ministers, after which he introduced his official Cabinet list to President Erdoğan before noon on Aug. 29, announcing it to the public a few hours later. Shortly after, the presidential press office announced that Erdoğan had approved the new government.
Only four new names have been introduced in the new government, which will have to deal with an intense agenda for little over nine months in the run up to the parliamentary elections of June 2015, with the economic administration remaining untouched.
The Foreign Ministry seat left vacant by Davutoğlu’s nomination as prime minister has been handed to former EU Affairs Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. For his part, Çavuşoğlu was replaced in the EU Ministry by Volkan Bozkır, the chair of Parliament’s Foreign Relations Commission.
Deputy Prime Ministers Beşir Atalay and Emrullah İşler have been replaced by Yalçın Akdoğan and Numan Kurtulmuş. Atalay has been a key figure in the ongoing peace process for the Kurdish problem and Akdoğan, a close confidant of Erdoğan, is expected to take over Atalay’s duties in the process.
The most dramatic change in the Cabinet is in the Customs and Trade Ministry, with the name of Hayati Yazıcı being crossed out in favor of Nurettin Canikli, the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) deputy parliamentary group chair.
The veteran and the rookie
A newcomer, Akdoğan, and Arınç, one of the doyens of the ruling AKP government, which came to power for the first time in November 2002 before winning the parliamentary elections in two consecutive terms in 2007 and 2011, will have to work alongside each other, despite a number of skirmishes that took place in the run-up to the formation of the government.
As recently as Aug. 22, Akdoğan, a senior adviser to Erdoğan who has been working with him since as early as 2002, weighed into a debate between veteran executives and relative newcomers, taking umbrage at being called a “rookie.”
Arınç, one of the leading founders of the party, indirectly addressed Akdoğan on Aug. 12, openly advising what he called the party’s “rookies” to “calm down” after public reactions against former President Gül, who had signaled his return to the party on Aug. 11.
The name of AKP Deputy Chair Kurtulmuş has been constantly cited ahead of every reshuffle since he joined the party, after his People’s Voice Party (HAS Party or HSP) dissolved itself in the autumn of 2012. It was even suggested at the time that Kurtulmuş agreed to dissolve his party and join the AKP only after Erdoğan promised that he would succeed him as prime minister.
His name was again cited before and after the presidential election on Aug. 10, when Erdoğan was elected as president by popular vote. Some commentators suggested that Kurtulmuş would be nominated as the new chair of the AKP, while Davutoğlu would be nominated as the prime minister.
Eventually, Kurtulmuş has been named as one of four deputy prime ministers in the 62nd government, but has also quickly been labeled as an “outsider” by some.
“I want to state that I find being labeled an ‘outsider’ odd. Numan Kurtulmuş is not somebody from outside. The AK Party is not a coalition government. Here, there is a party that got the votes of almost 50 percent of the nation. Yours truly is someone who has assumed the deputy leadership of this party for quite a long time,” he told reporters on Aug. 29.
The incoming government has a hectic schedule on its hands, as slowing economic growth, the rise of the Islamic State across the border in Iraq and Syria, and the future of the resolution/peace process aimed at ending the three-decade long conflict between Turkey’s security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), just a few of the items that demand concerted efforts.
In line with the urgency that conditions impose on the government, the takeover ceremonies at ministries where changes occurred were rapidly held on Aug. 29. Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek, meanwhile, called the General Assembly for an extraordinary session on Sept. 1, at which the new government’s program will be read out.
According to Parliament’s internal rules, a full two days after the read out of the program is completed, debates on the program will be held on Sept. 4. Accordingly, exactly one full day after the debates, a confidence vote session will be held on Sept. 6.
Meanwhile, in their new capacities, Erdoğan and Davutoğlu together attended on Aug. 29 a graduation ceremony at the Gülhane Military Academy of Medicine (GATA). Later in the early evening, Davutoğlu was set to chair a meeting of his ruling AKP’s highest decision-making body, the Central Decision and Executive Board (MKYK), for the very first time.
‘Flag handover’ or ‘comedy’?
According to Akdoğan, the formation of the new Cabinet is merely “a flag handover,” while the two major opposition parties, however, described the picture as “a comedy.”
“There are very precious cadres in the AK Party. This is a flag handover between these cadres,” Akdoğan told the state-run Anadolu Agency on Aug. 29, likening the change of the government to a relay race.
According to Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, however, “the list of the Council of Ministers was slipped into Davutoğlu’s hand,” with Bahçeli suggesting that Erdoğan drafted the list “name by name.”
“The theater of politics and the comedy of politics, which is staged with Erdoğan playing the leading actor, took place in front of everybody’s eyes,” Bahçeli said in a written statement released on Aug. 29.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chair Sezgin Tanrıkulu also described the new Cabinet as a “complete comedy,” when asked to comment at a press conference on Aug. 29.
“Erdoğan gave the list to Davutoğlu. Davutoğlu pulled the list that he received out of his pocket and gave it back to Erdoğan,” Tanrıkulu also said.
“Davutoğlu didn’t have a say on this list at all. No peace can come out of this Cabinet and understanding. Particularly when we look at the deputy prime ministers, this is not a Cabinet of peace and conciliation,” he also added.
The Cabinet of Turkey's 62nd government is as follows (the new appointments are shown in bold):
Four deputy prime ministers - Bülent Arınç, Ali Babacan, Yalçın Akdoğan, Numan Kurtulmuş
Foreign Minister - Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu
Interior Minister - Efkan Ala
Justice Minister - Bekir Bozdağ
Finance Minister - Mehmet Şimşek
Economy Minister - Nihat Zeybekci
Energy and Natural Resources Minister - Taner Yıldız
Defense Minister - İsmet Yılmaz
Family and Social Policies Minister - Ayşenur İslam
EU Minister - Volkan Bozkır
Science, Industry and Technology Minister - Fikri Işık
Labor and Social Security Minister - Faruk Çelik
Environment and Urban Planning Minister - İdris Güllüce
Youth and Sports Minister - Akif Çağatay Kılıç
Food, Agriculture and Livestock Minister - Mehdi Eker
Customs and Trade Minister - Nurettin Canikli
Development Minister - Cevdet Yılmaz
Culture and Tourism Minister - Ömer Çelik
Education Minister - Nabi Avcı
Forestry and Water Affairs Minister - Veysel Eroğlu
Health Minister - Mehmet Müezzinoğlu
Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communication Minister - Lütfi Elvan