Davutoğlu’s choice for economy and foreign policy

Davutoğlu’s choice for economy and foreign policy

Turkish Prime Minister and President-elect Tayyip Erdoğan announced Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as his successor in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) on Aug. 21, after a four-hour executive board meeting at the party headquarters in Ankara.

The AK Parti still dominates Parliament, so as soon as Erdoğan takes over from outgoing President Abdullah Gül on Aug. 28, he is expected to invite Davutoğlu up to the Çankaya Presidential Palace to give him the office of forming a Cabinet for the new government.

Actually, Davutoğlu’s name had been leaked to press even before the presidential election on Aug. 10 as a part of the campaign, and also to prepare public opinion. Outgoing President Gül had also told reporters two days earlier that Davutoğlu seemed likely to be the next prime minister, and Erdoğan made it official on Thursday.

There are a few key issues on the agenda of the new government. These are mainly the direction of the economy, the Kurdish dialogue process, the civil wars across the borders in Syria and Iraq and, at a different level, Erdoğan’s vow to clear Gülenists - or the “parallel state” as he prefers to say - out of government institutions.

However, when looked from outside, the new masters of the economy and foreign policy matter more than other fields.

It is important for the government to sustain growth and be able to attract more foreign investment. Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the economy, Ali Babacan, is a popular and trusted figure among international investors, and Davutoğlu would also like to work with Babacan. However, Babacan might ask for certain conditions to be secured for this, and among those conditions might be a guarantee of non-interference by Yiğit Bulut, Erdoğan’s economy advisor. Bulut is not on good terms with Babacan because of Bulut’s off-the-beat comments in the direction of the economy. Babacan might also want to keep Mehmet Şimşek as finance minister, and would like to keep the Central Bank as autonomous as possible.

The Foreign Ministry is a favorite for many AK Parti names, because Erdoğan’s foreign policy, under Davutoğlu - for the first time in Turkish politics - has started to bring in votes to incumbents. That is not necessarily because of the results obtained, (since Erdoğan’s foreign policy has been under criticism, especially over the last three to four years), but because of the populist way it has been carried out: Turkey versus the West, which doesn’t want Turkey to prosper.

In Ankara, there are more bets being placed on Hakan Fidan, the head of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) than other candidates. Fidan already plays a key role in Turkey’s secret diplomacy, but precisely because of this diplomacy and also the key role he plays in the dialogue process in pursuit of a political settlement to the Kurdish issue, Davutoğlu (and Erdoğan) would like to keep him in his current place.

Here are some other candidates for the top diplomatic chair: Ömer Çelik, the current culture and tourism minister, who is known for his desire for the post for many years. Numan Kurtulmuş, the deputy chairman of the AK Parti, would also like to have the post if he cannot have the deputy PM in charge of economy portfolio. Likewise Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the current European affairs minister and also the former chairman of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe. Guesses are also being made for a diplomacy-origin foreign minister from outside Parliament, but this really would be a big surprise.

If Çavuşoğlu becomes the new foreign minister, another chair will be opened at the head of the EU Ministry for AK Parti names showing an interest in exterior affairs. There might be some surprise names for that post too, such as Çağatay Kılıç, the current sports minister, as a relatively young, sharp politician, in reference to Erdoğan’s admiration for Austria’s young Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz. There are also reports claiming that Erdoğan could take İbrahim Kalın, his chief foreign advisor, up to Çankaya Palace with him, again as a chief advisor.

The naming of the holders of key economy and diplomacy positions in the new Cabinet is likely to be Davutoğlu’s first important decision.