Turkey's first election gov't comes with more firsts
AFP photoAs President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan approved the interim government, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has pledged that his new cabinet up until the Nov. 1 snap election will operate like a government elected for a four-year term, challenging all those who might seek a “power vacuum” in the run-up to the election.
Davutoğlu delivered a lengthy review of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s performance in a speech delivered on Aug. 28, hours before presenting an interim cabinet list for President Erdoğan’s approval.
“With the cabinet that I will present today to the president, we will not work in the mood of a transition government. If there are jackals who say, ‘This is a transition government and it is foggy weather, let’s take to the streets in this foggy weather,’ we will not let them,” he said at an expanded meeting with his ruling AKP’s provincial chairs.
The gathering at the AKP HQ came two weeks before the party’s regular congress scheduled for Sept. 12.
“We will work with this cabinet as if we are governing Turkey for four years. By no means will we conduct this saying, ‘This is an election cabinet until Nov. 1, let’s pass the days and spend time strolling around with red license plates,’” Davutoğlu said, claiming that the AKP is not a place for anyone looking to pursue their personal advancement through use of their post.
The Erdoğan-Davutoğlu meeting at the presidential palace started with delays and took 70 minutes. The Presidency announced late Aug. 28 that Erdoğan approved Davutoğlu's list, which is the first ever interim government formed to take the country to elections.
Two deputies of the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), whose parties accepted to participate in the interim government, took relatively less important ministeries. Ali Haydar Konca is named as EU Minister and Müslüm Doğan as Development Minister.
Tuğrul Türkeş, who joined the government despite his Nationalist Movement Party's (MHP) opposition, has become a deputy prime minister.
Babacan replaced, Sinirlioğlu becomes FM
While Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek and Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekçi retained their seats in the interim government, key changes occured elsewhere.
Ali Babacan, who has been seen as Turkey's economy tsar for years, was not eligible to continue as deputy prime minister in the new government due to a term limit imposed by his party.
Cevdet Yılmaz, former development minister, will take over as the deputy prime minister in charge of the economy.
Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu has been named as the new Foreign Minister, while Selami Altınok, former police chief of Istanbul, was named as the new minister of interior.
Ayşen Gürcan, the new Family and Social Policies Minister, has become the first cabinet member in the counry's history who wears the Islamic headscarf.
Meanwhile, Davutoğlu picked Ali Rıza Alaboyun as his new energy minister, replacing Taner Yıldız.
Politics amid terror attacks
Erdoğan had asked Davutoğlu to form the temporary cabinet on Aug. 25 after the AKP lost its majority in the June 7 election for the first time in 13 years and then failed to find a junior coalition partner.
The caretaker cabinet is mainly made up of ruling party legislators and independents after two main opposition parties - the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the MHP - refused to participate. Two deputies of the HDP accepted invitations to join the cabinet, as did MHP's Türkeş, who broke ranks with his party.
Erdoğan called a new election after Davutoğlu failed to form a coalition government following a parliamentary election in June.
Since late July, Turkey has been waging a relentless “anti-terror” offensive against militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the southeast and in northern Iraq, which critics say is largely aimed at reinforcing support ahead of the next election.
However, Davutoğlu described as “shameless” those who say “the AK Parti was actually playing for time to hold elections and launched these terror operations deliberately before the vote.”
'Pawns and the chess board'
Again reiterating that his party did its best to form a coalition government, the prime minister claimed that the stances of both the CHP and the MHP were aimed at forcing his AKP to form a government with the HDP in order to use it as “political material to use in the election campaign.”
He was implicitly referring to the fact that AKP members of the interim government will now have to work with ministers from the HDP, which it regards as a political extension of the PKK.
“This operation of security and serenity is definitely not directed against any segment of our country or citizens. We launched this assault against everyone who threatens Turkey and our peace. This was an obligation. We must throw these pawns that mobilize after each election from the chess board by also drawing lessons from the past,” Davutoğlu said.
According to a recent toll by the state-run Anadolu Agency, 918 PKK militants have been killed in ground operations and air strikes since July. Meanwhile, at least 60 members of the Turkish security forces have lost their lives in a cycle of violence that shows no sign of abating.