Jul 06 2018

Erdoğan to form unelected cabinet under strengthened rule

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will form a cabinet including unelected ministers to guide Turkey as he implements a full presidential system of government for the country.

Erdoğan, in his first major speech since the night of the June 24 elections, in which he won 52 percent of the vote, said a team of unelected officials would help speed necessary reforms.

“Now we are forming a cabinet with our unelected ministers,” he told members of his ruling party in Ankara. “When looking at events they will have the opportunity to see things more objectively.”

Erdoğan said he would also appoint his vice presidents, the heads of presidential boards that will be tied to his palace and general directors for those institutions. The boards will deal with a whole host of policies pertaining to the economy, foreign affairs, security, infrastructure and other areas.

Turkey’s president is strengthening his grip over all government policy in Turkey after elections heralded the introduction of Turkey’s “executive presidency”, which was narrowly approved in a nationwide referendum in April last year. Analysts are concerned that his plans will further erode democracy in the country and make economic policy less predictable. The European Union has frozen membership talks with Turkey citing its democratic decline.

The list of new ministers will be announced at 9:30 p.m. local time on Monday.

Erdoğan said that his governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) would continue its alliance with the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), an ultra-right group, in the new parliament, meaning laws would pass commissions and the general assembly “like a locomotive”.

The president raised a red flag to investors in May when he said he would cut interest rates and take more control of monetary policy should he win another term in office. The plans to reduce rates were repeated this week by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, whose office will be abolished on Monday. Erdoğan’s comments had pushed the lira to a record low against the dollar, prompting the central bank to raise interest rates by 425 basis points to 17.75 percent to stave off a possible currency crisis.

The AKP will hold its party congress in August, at which point it will begin its campaign for local elections in March next year, Erdoğan said. It was time to study the mistakes the party has made in recent years and correct them, he said.

Erdoğan has presided over emergency rule in Turkey since an attempted military coup in July 2016, issuing edicts, intensifying a crackdown on his politcal opponents and strengthening his grip on the media and non-governmental organisations. He is due to end the system next week, but plans for legislative changes on terrorism, security and the penal code may render that step superfluous.

Tens of thousands of people have been detained and jailed under the state of emergency, many of them members of the Fethullah Gulen movement, a clandestine islamic group resembling the Masons that the government says orchestrated the coup. Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan, denies the charges,

Erdoğan gave few clues in his speech about the direction of foreign policy under his strengthened presidency. The role of foreign minister has been traditionally prominent, as has the role of the foreign ministry, traditionally made up of career diplomats, in policymaking.

Relations between Turkey and its Western allies are at a low. Turkey's role in NATO has been questioned after Erdoğan allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Syria, fell out with the United States over Iran and Washington's support for Kurdish groups fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad and repeatedly slammed Israel for being a "terrorist state".

Ibrahim Kalin, Erdoğan's spokesman and chief adviser, has been tipped by some Turkish commentators to head foreign policy under the revamped administration.