The cabinet reshuffle is more cosmetic than important

The cabinet reshuffle is more cosmetic than important

A cabinet reshuffle has been discussed since before the April 16 constitutional referendum, which consolidated all executive powers in President Tayyip Erdoğan’s hands. Especially after being re-elected as the chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) on May 21, which was something enabled by the referendum as well, a cabinet reshuffle seemed so close and easy.

In the political backstage at Ankara there were names suggested for the foreign, interior and justice ministries, and possible names could be taken from just outside the parliament, which highlights the idea that in the presidential system, party, parliament and the cabinet affairs would be separated and only be linked by the president.

The cabinet reshuffle was announced yesterday, on July 19, by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım following a one-and-a-half hour meeting with Erdoğan, which was actually a follow-up of a longer one a night before. As said in the Aesop’s Fables, “the mountain gave birth to a mouse,” calling the cabinet reshuffle radical or an important one regarding the decision-making mechanisms is not easy but it is rather a cosmetic one, as if it was done just for the sake of it.

The foreign, interior, and finance ministers kept their posts; so did the ministers in charge of European Union affairs and energy as well as deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, Mehmet Şimşek, in a move aimed at not upsetting the markets. In a nutshell, there is no change in Turkey’s economic, foreign and security policies.

Bekir Bozdağ was removed from his helm at the Justice Ministry. This could be considered important as it comes right after the 25-day-long “Justice March” led by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. But Bozdağ is not removed entirely from the cabinet; he is promoted to be one of the deputy prime ministers. Abdülhamit Gül, who is made the new justice minister, is likely to follow the same line dictated by Erdoğan, as he is one of the architects of the constitutional amendments and known to be the architect of the alliance between the AK Parti and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) for the April 16 referendum. Another hidden MHP effect on the reshuffle could be the removal of Tuğrul Türkeş from his position as deputy prime minister to being removed from cabinet completely. He used to be the deputy to the MHP leader, Devlet Bahçeli, before joining the AK Parti in the 2015 elections, which enabled him to be appointed to the government post afterwards.

Moving Numan Kurtulmuş from his post as a deputy prime minister to the Culture and Tourism Ministry is speculated to be a move to pave the way to put him in place of the current parliament speaker, as elections are to be renewed in October this year and Kurtulmuş is among the candidates competing against the incumbent İsmail Kahraman, who from time to time puts the government in a difficult position with his remarks. Shifting Nurettin Canikli from his post as deputy prime minister to the Defense Ministry - and promoting the defense minister to the post of the deputy prime minister - could be related to the approaching Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meetings where another cleansing in the army of Gülenist suspects is anticipated. Canikli has been a member of the government’s commission to dismiss sympathizers or members of the illegal network of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher who is accused of masterminding the July 15, 2016, coup attempt in Turkey.

A good point in the cabinet reshuffle is that Turkey now has two women ministers. Jülide Sarıeroğlu, with a trade union background, is appointed as the new labor minister, while Family and Social Affairs Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya has kept her post.