No key changes in Turkey’s new cabinet

No key changes in Turkey’s new cabinet

The new cabinet of Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, as approved by President Tayyip Erdoğan and announced on May 24, featured no changes in key positions. This was another sign former PM Ahmet Davutoğlu’s main problem was “harmony” with the president.

The major surprise (which was a relief for the financial markets) was the fact that Mehmet Şimşek retained his position as deputy prime minister in charge of economic policies. Known to be close to former economy chief Ali Babacan and former president Abdullah Gül, Şimşek’s removal from the cabinet would have been read by international investors as bad news regarding the course of the Turkish economy. 

Keeping people like Şimşek in place shows that, despite the remarks of some of his close aides, President Erdoğan (and thus PM Yıldırım) care about the response of global markets. Development Minister Lütfü Elvan, who is known to be close to Davutoğlu and who is said to have had some problems with Yıldırım in the past, has also kept his seat.

But it is not only in the economy portfolios that things stayed largely the same. Four fundamental ministries will continue with the same heads: Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu as foreign minister, Efkan Ala as interior minister, Bekir Bozdağ as justice minister and Naci Ağbal as finance minister. Of those, only Naci Ağbal was not in the last Erdoğan cabinet that lasted until August 2014 before Erdoğan handpicked Davutoğlu to succeed him after he was elected as president. Back then, Ağbal was a Finance Ministry undersecretary to Şimşek. 

Clearly, this latest cabinet is Erdoğan’s team, after Davutoğlu was stripped off his powers over the course of just a few days. No loyalty issues are likely to surface - at least any time soon.

There is a similar picture in the “action-taking ministries,” as they are called in the Turkish system. There is no change in the Energy Ministry, where Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak keeps his position. Another ministry with a huge budget, the Transportation and Communications Ministry, as the former post of PM Yıldırım, will now be headed by Ahmet Arslan, who used to be Yıldırım’s railroads, ports and airports director before he elected as a ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) MP. 

Erdoğan’s original health minister, Recep Akdağ, is back in position, remembered for his steps taken in the first years of AK Parti rule that are often cited as one of the main reasons the AK Party has won the hearts and minds of many citizen - together with steps in transportation infrastructure. The health system has in recent years been criticized for a number of failures, especially in connection with the social security system. 
Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz has also been shifted to the Education Ministry. Coming from the state bureaucracy, Yılmaz is known to be an Erdoğan loyalist.

This is almost a cabinet of technocrats. Most probably it is not intended to generate its own policies, but rather to focus on implementing policies set by president Erdoğan with the contribution of Yıldırım. This is also obvious from the fact that the cabinet will have its first meeting chaired by president, not by the prime minister, at the presidential compound in Ankara, rather than in the prime minister’s office.