Erdoğan wants to start the new system by September
Before departing for South Africa on July 25 to join the BRICS meeting upon the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said the appointments for key bureaucratic positions could be completed within two weeks’ time. “It will not take too long,” the president said. “I think we can get the restructuring completed in 10-15 days, God willing.”
With those remarks, Erdoğan actually gave a deadline for the first time for the restructuring of a Turkish state apparatus up to par with the presidential system of government, which the country voted for in the 2017 referendum and endorsed in the June 24, 2018 elections. The work for adopting the new system had begun with the abolishment of the prime ministry and then by reducing the number of ministries from 25 to 16.
Then came the abolishment of the undersecretaries and deputy undersecretaries of ministries, which had previously been key for Turkish bureaucracy. Instead, the president will also appoint deputy ministers; one of them will have more power than others. The president has also begun to appoint names for the newly founded presidential directorates and offices.
There will be eight directorates, including the General Staff, National Intelligence, Defense Industry, National Security, Religious Affairs, State Auditing, Communications, and Strategy and Budget. There will also be four offices, including Finance, Human Resources, Digital Transformation and Communications.
He made the remarks after making two appointments to two new directorates. The communications director is Fahrettin Altun, the Istanbul coordinator of the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), which is a think tank in Ankara. Altun will be in charge of state-run broadcaster TRT and Anadolu Agency and former Finance Minister Naci Ağbal has been appointed as the Director of Strategy and Budget.
Though the working principles and mechanisms of those offices and their relations are not one hundred percent public yet, it is likely Erdoğan designed the system to act as checks and balances on the activities of ministers. So for example, the Directorate for Strategy and Budget could measure the performance of the newly formed Finance and Treasury Ministry, or Defense Ministry, and the General Staff Directorate could check and balance one another. This, at least, is the current outlook until it is fully explained.
That is important because yesterday Erdoğan said, “Anything can happen at any moment; those who are appointed could be taken from office as well. We give priority to eligibility. There is no place for failure in our book.”
With the completion of presidential directorates and offices, the next step will be the finalization of the deputy ministers. There may be new names appointed as provincial governors and ambassadors. A short notice ambassadors meeting is expected to take place in Ankara in the first half of August. The final phase is likely to be the Congress of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) scheduled for Aug. 18, in which Erdoğan is expected to form a new and younger executive committee committed to him that he expects would walk the walk with him.
After the Congress, there will be religious holidays for the Feast of the Sacrifice (Eid al Adha). Maybe Erdoğan would like to use the last week of August to fine tune and be ready to kick off the new system. Perhaps by September it could be called the Second Turkish Republic.