A cabinet for all seasons

A cabinet for all seasons

Turkey’s ruling AK Party had a whirlwind of change squeezed into a month. At the end, we are all faced with almost the same type of government, yet the speed of action will most likely change. Mr. Binali Yıldırım took the helm on Sunday and his government will be up and running as of Tuesday afternoon. This is what President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meant when he pushed for the change.

Keeping Mehmet Şimşek as a deputy prime minister is a guarantee for international investors. But do not be fooled by this; there will be more, not less, pressure on the Central Bank to cut interest rates after this.

Despite the fact that the markets outside of Turkey are getting edgy as the FED signals a rate hike in June, Turkey’s top economic brass may be forced to bend the rules.

President Erdoğan has decided to shape the system in a way that enables his presidency. His choice to put an engineer and an old friend at the top of the party is a deliberate choice to keep the ranks in check. The cabinet will be more in charge of the implementation process rather than policy making.

This poses a stark difference to the Ahmet Davutoğlu cabinet where there was deep political and philosophical discussion on even the simplest decision-making process. There were too many talking heads yet very few doers. Yıldırım, on the other hand, is a man that does not get along too well with high debate. As an engineer, he reflects a bit of late President Süleyman Demirel, a man from the street who sees things technically.

Keeping Mevlut Çavuşoğlu as the foreign minister is also the stamp of President Erdoğan. Foreign policy will be shaped by the president from now on. There will no more be separate talks or phone conversations with the White House. It will be much easier to manage rapprochement with Israel and non-reaction to U.S.-PYD discussions under these circumstances. There will be less noise in Ankara as there will not be the “cadre of advisers” that constantly call up reporters and spin the story.

Former Technology Minister Fikri Işık moves into the Defense Ministry where there are lots of joint projects already. Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz moves into the Education Ministry, which is a huge change. Not just because Yılmaz does not come from an education background, but more because he has been working with the military for a long time. He knows the needs and sensitivities of one of the most powerful institutions in Turkey.

Observers and colleagues have told me that despite all the showbiz and glitz about the AK Party Convention, there is a deep disappointment and sadness that was felt in the arena. The ceremony of reading Erdoğan’s message only resembles those of deeply religious sects or deeply politicized parties (I remember PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s message being read like that in HADEP/DEP conventions decades ago) where the cult of the leader is inevitable.

Binali Yıldırım is a lucky politician. He has an easygoing manner and his public proximity is much higher than Davutoğlu’s. He speaks in easy words, in a slow way that almost forces us to pay attention.

He can have fun with himself and he does not forget where he came from. His sympathy among the public will eventually be much higher than Davutoğlu and that gives him enough power to challenge the president when necessary.