Cabinet change likely before July 2013

Cabinet change likely before July 2013

The messages Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivered yesterday about the upcoming Justice and Development Party (AKP) convention were very important.

He said two things. First, he said “The upcoming convention on Sept. 30 is not the greatest milestone for the AKP; that was Aug. 14, 2001, when the party was established.” Erdoğan wants to emphasize that the convention will not change the path the AKP has been following since it was founded, and that the party will stick by its founding principles. According to Erdoğan, this convention is nothing but an updating of the AKP.

The second thing he said was meant to nix expectations of a major reshuffling of the Cabinet. “The changes within the Cabinet and its renewal are not matters which go in parallel with [the] convention. I mean, there may be changes within the Cabinet outside of convention [time], as well. But something like this is out of question on our roadmap at the moment,” Erdoğan said, speaking at a press conference before his departure for Azerbaijan.

I heard the same thing from Ertuğrul Günay, the culture and tourism minister, late Monday when he met with Ankara bureau chiefs for a dinner at Ankara’s pride, the Cermodern Museum. Günay said he did not expect a comprehensive Cabinet change after the convention, adding “Mr. Prime Minister is being tightlipped about this. I think he will wait until the local elections. I do not expect a revision of the Cabinet before that time.”

But for Günay, a veteran politician with social democratic background, there are those who are waiting for ministerial posts within the AKP. “I have no expectation [of being re-appointed as a minister in future governments]. Some friends are expecting to become ministers. Let me not disappoint them,” he said, in a rather sarcastic manner.

From these remarks, one can see Erdoğan’s plan more openly. The prime minister’s first task is to renew the leading cadre of the party not for today, but for the future. The participation of figures like Numan Kurtulmuş and Süleyman Soylu will only add strength to the AKP and will create an environment of competition among the party’s officials. Both will have a place on the 50-seat Central Decision Making and Executive Council (MKYK), the party’s most important body. There will likely be new and younger faces on the MKYK who will be natural contenders for future Cabinet posts as well.

On the other hand, the completion of the convention will mean the commencement intense work leading up to the local elections. The party’s local branches have already started to carry out public opinion polls to assist the party headquarters in selecting the best names for the race. With a likely amendment to the AKP’s internal regulations, party officials who will no longer be able to run for Parliament due to the party’s three-term restriction will be able to be nominated in local elections. As a number of ministers and key party members fall within this category, we may perhaps see a revision of the Cabinet before the first half of 2013 to allow those who will run for mayor’s posts to have time to campaign.