Albayrak may go as Erdoğan considers Turkey cabinet reshuffle

Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak may be facing an uncertain political future as speculation mounts that his father-in-law, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, will remove him in a cabinet reshuffle. 

It is unclear from recent developments whether Albayrak will remain in his current position, Murat Yetkin, the former editor-in-chief of Hürriyet Daily News and a veteran Ankara-based journalist, said in an article published on his personal blog on Wednesday.

Albayrak was put in charge of Turkey’s economy after national elections in June 2018. Since then, the minister has launched a series of economic programmes to tackle the country’s severe economic downturn, sparked by a currency crisis. But none of these programmes have achieved their targets. Albayrak faced stiff criticism earlier this year over his poor performance at meetings with foreign investors.

Yetkin, among several Turkish columnists who have raised doubts over the former businessman's political future, said changes to laws such as those strengthening the Treasury’s powers, including allowing it to buy assets in companies in Turkey and abroad, might suggest that Albayrak will remain in direct charge of the economy with this enhanced remit.

But should Albayrak be moved in a cabinet reshuffle anticipated by many political observers, he could become a vice president in a newly created role, or work with Erdoğan in some other senior capacity at the presidential palace, Yetkin said. That would pave the way for former Finance Minister Naci Ağbal or another figure to take Albayrak’s place, he said.

Albayrak also has a key role to play in developing foreign trade with the United States to reach a target for total bilateral trade of $100 billion annually, Yetkin wrote. Erdoğan is likely to keep Albayrak close to him, just as President Donald Trump does with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, he said.

Erdoğan's cabinet reshuffle could mean an exit for his son-in-law, prominent columnist Abdulkadir Selvi, who writes for Hürriyet newspaper, said on Monday.

Intense speculation about the cabinet revisions was triggered last week when Erdoğan held back-to-back meetings with three ministers, said Selvi, who is known for his insider sources in the ruling party.

The rumours have been fuelled by the long absence of Albayrak, a key figure in the government who has made only rare public appearances in recent months, Selvi said.

Political circles in Ankara have said the cabinet changes are likely to be made at a meeting of the ruling party’s central executive committee on Sept. 18. Five or six ministers could face the axe, Selvi said. But a ranking party official told him the reshuffle would come in two or three months.

Yetkin said that a radical change in the composition of Erdoğan’s cabinet is unlikely, with key ministers set to keep their jobs.

Those include Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who is aligned with Erdoğan on foreign policy, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, who has strong ties to the military, Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül, who has begun a programme of judicial reforms, and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, backed by Erdoğan’s nationalist coalition partners, Yetkin said.