Ankara revisits rumors of a cabinet reshuffle

Ankara revisits rumors of a cabinet reshuffle

The initial speculations over a cabinet reshuffle had been circulated in the Turkish capital in the aftermath of the renewed Istanbul elections that ended with the landslide victory of the opposition candidate, Ekrem İmamoğlu, against Binali Yıldırım, the joint candidate of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

At the time, losing Istanbul –twice- along with Ankara, İzmir, Antalya, Adana and other big cities to the opposition alliance had led to a massive internal discussion within the AKP as president and chair of the AKP, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, concluded that his party was suffering from mental fatigue.

Two separate studies had been initiated by the AKP at the time: One to scrutinize the implementation of the executive presidential system and the other on the performances of the local organizations and the AKP’s top brass.

It was concluded that the executive-presidential is functioning very well with few problems stemming from the adaptation process. As a result of the second study, the AKP underwent a change in the cadres of the local organizations and partially renewed the party’s top brass.

This wave of change did not include the cabinet members for two main reasons: First, Erdoğan did not want to give the impression that his government has failed to deliver under the executive-presidential system. Plus, a rush in a cabinet reshuffle only a year after it was formed would be considered as pressing on the panic button.

Secondly, his main political ally, MHP chair Devlet Bahçeli has openly objected to the idea of a cabinet reshuffle as the government ministers should be given enough time before a fair and adequate assessment of their performance can be judged.

In addition to these, the issue had to be shelved due to Ankara’s overwhelmingly busy international agenda, including a military offensive into eastern Syria, deploying troops to Libya, deadly armed conflict in Syria’s Idlib province and lately the COVID-19 pandemic.

After months, Ankara is now revisiting the speculations over a cabinet reshuffle. But, according to some columnists who are closely following the AKP, the change will be more substantial than thought and will also affect the composition of some ministries.

In power since July 10, 2018, the current executive-presidential system is composed of one vice president and 16 ministers. It’s believed that Erdoğan may appoint another vice president and increase the number of ministries to 19. Binali Yıldırım, who declared he won’t run for the office of the parliament speaker, is the strongest candidate should Erdoğan decide to increase the number of his closest aides to two.

Another plan being discussed at the AKP is to increase the number of ministries by separating the Culture and Tourism Ministry, Labor, Family and Social Services Ministry, and the Forestry and Agriculture Ministry.

There are wide speculations about who will be out of the government and by whom they will be replaced. As can be recalled, the only change within the cabinet Erdoğan made was the removal of Cahit Turhan from the Transportation Ministry.

In April, Erdoğan rejeceted Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu’s resignation from his job because of his clumsy move to impose a weekend curfew only a few hours before the restriction that caused a massive panic-buying at the expense of violating the social distancing measures.

Erdoğan’s government under the executive-presidential system will mark its second anniversary in two weeks and many believe that the reshuffle will be announced accordingly, should the president decide to take any action to this end.