PM Davutoğlu takes no risk before 2015 elections
August was a very meaningful month for Turkish politics this year. It brought about a new president, a new prime minister and a new Cabinet. Turkey’s new Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu formed the country’s 62nd government hours after he was given the mandate by the country’s new President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The composition of the new government explicitly proves that Davutoğlu is placing the idea of unity within his Justice and Development Party (AKP) as his top priority. As the new chairman of the AKP, Davutoğlu wanted to form a balanced government without minor changes from the previous one, however, with just one aim: To go to the 2015 elections with full power and without any in-house problems. He removed three names from the Cabinet and appointed four new names to his Cabinet, making clear that all his thoughts are already on the election campaign trail.
The most notable change in the Cabinet was the introduction of two new names as deputy prime ministers. To the contrary of forecasts, by keeping Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç in his seat, Davutoğlu intends to avoid the continuation of a conflict between youngsters and veterans in the party. Appointing Yalçın Akdoğan, one of Erdoğan’s closest advisors and a prominent frontrunner within the AKP’s younger generation who often quarreled with Arınç, as another deputy prime minister, will serve as a balancing act to this end.
However, Akdoğan’s role in the Cabinet will not be limited to this, but he will have a multifunctional service to the government as both the new master of the ongoing Kurdish resolution process and the coordinator between the presidency and Prime Ministry.
Numan Kurtulmuş, who joined the AKP in 2012, found himself a prestigious place in the Cabinet despite not being a lawmaker. Replacing Emrullah İşler as deputy prime minister, Kurtulmuş will enter Parliament in the 2015 elections. Although he is an economics professor, he won’t be charged to deal with the economy, as Deputy PM Ali Babacan will remain in the Cabinet until the 2015 elections.
Another area where Davutoğlu did not want to take a risk in was the economy, as he was in agreement with Babacan and Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek, architects of Turkey’s economic success in the last decade, to stay on until the next elections. Babacan has declared that he will leave politics after next year’s polls.
Davutoğlu becoming prime minister necessitated changes in both the Foreign Ministry and the EU Ministry. EU Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has been appointed as the foreign minister and the seat he left was filled by Volkan Bozkır, a retired ambassador who worked nearly two decades on EU affairs. Bozkır’s appointment as the EU Minister is seen as a development that would bring a new momentum to Turkey’s ongoing EU process.
Although there was much talk about the potential appointment of Hakan Fidan, undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), for the position as foreign minister, it seems that the government did not want to take a risk. Fidan will likely be elected as a lawmaker in the upcoming elections.
Efkan Ala and Bekir Bozdağ, Interior and Justice Ministers, could protect their key positions in the Cabinet. They are particularly important because of their preoccupation in the fight against the so-called parallel state. Both men will have to deal with the ongoing prosecutions of the alleged members of this parallel state and with looming elections at the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK).
Three names departed from the Cabinet: Deputy PM Beşir Atalay, Deputy PM Emrullah İşler and Customs Minister Hayati Yazıcı. That indicates that this new Cabinet is a follow-up of Erdoğan’s last government, meaning Davutoğlu will stick to his predecessor’s agenda.
But it also shows that Davutoğlu’s ultimate aim is to go to the elections with a powerful, trouble-free government and to get a majority at Parliament in line with Erdoğan’s expectations. It would not be an exaggeration if Davutoğlu’s campaign trail for the 2015 elections began when he announced the new government on Aug. 29.