Analysis of the new Turkish Cabinet

Analysis of the new Turkish Cabinet

New Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced his Cabinet on Aug. 29, confounding the exaggerated speculations in the Turkish media over the last few weeks. Despite all the “Cabinet-lotto” that had suggested a major reshuffle, Davutoğlu ended up keeping a majority of outgoing Prime Minister and now incoming President Tayyip Erdoğan’s council of ministers in their former places.

Davutoğlu shifted Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the European affairs minister of the last Erdoğan Cabinet, to his former position as foreign minister. Çavuşoğlu was already one of the most obvious candidates for the post, with his international relations background that includes a period in the presidency of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The other strong candidate for the post, Hakan Fidan, has been kept in his position as the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT). This is due to his key function not only in the efforts in pursuit of a political settlement to the Kurdish issue but also in Turkey’s secret diplomacy in the boiling Middle East.

Çavuşoğlu’s position in the EU Ministry has been filled by Volkan Bozkır, again an obvious candidate. Bozkır is a retired ambassador who has an expertise on European files, including Turkish representation in Brussels, and he has also been number two in the EU Ministry that he is now in charge of.

There is no surprise in the direction of the Turkish economy either. Ali Babacan keeps his position as deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, as does his close colleague Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek. This means that talk of the “low interest rates lobby,” which has been common among Erdoğan’s close advisors, has not been able to gain much ground.

Another expected appointment was Yalçın Akdoğan, Erdoğan’s chief political advisor, to replace Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay and to take over his important file in the Kurdish peace process dialogue. Akdoğan is likely to work closely with the MİT’s Fidan on that issue, under the supervision of both PM Davutoğlu and President Erdoğan.

However, the removal of Hayati Yazıcı from his Customs and Trade Ministry post is interesting. Yazıcı used to be a close friend and lawyer of Erdoğan for many years, but there have been reports about Erdoğan’s discomfort with Yazıcı’s performance, particularly in the “struggle against the parallel state,” referring to the followers of Fethullah Gülen, (Erdoğan’s former ally, a moderate Islamist scholar living in the U.S. who is now considered an arch enemy), in the state apparatus.

That struggle has been a key issue for Erdoğan since the corruption probes opened on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, which Erdoğan thinks were part of a subversive plot of Gülenist police officers, prosecutors and judges. There are reports that the struggle against the Gülenists will take its part in Davutoğlu’s program to be submitted to Parliament next week. Indeed, Erdoğan and Davutoğlu together give all the signals to show their determination about this.

Nevertheless, it is obvious that this Cabinet is subject to change following the general elections scheduled for June 2015. Depending on the performance in that election of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti), now chaired by Davutoğlu, it is highly possible that the next Cabinet will have more faces that are new and young in both the party and in Turkish politics.