New cabinet spells little policy shift, Erdogan stays dominant

August 30, 2014 - 12:31:55 am
Turkey’s new Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (centre) and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan (second right) leave the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara after Friday prayers. 

ANKARA: Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu kept key members of Turkey’s economic management team in place and named Ankara’s point man on Europe as foreign minister in a new cabinet yesterday, moves signalling President Tayyip Erdogan’s continued domination.

Erdogan, who had dominated politics as prime minister since 2003, was sworn in on Thursday as Turkey’s first popularly-elected president, cementing his position as its most powerful leader of recent times.

Erdogan is likely to retain influence over the new team, with his former aide Yalcin Akdogan and Numan Kurtulmus, the deputy chairman of the ruling AK Party and another close ally, both named as deputy prime ministers.

“This cabinet carries Erdogan’s signature,” said Huseyin Yayman, a columnist and political science professor at Ankara’s Gazi University. The new government takes office at a challenging time for Turkey, with economic growth - one of the pillars on which the popularity of the AK Party is based - slowing and the map of the Middle East being rapidly redrawn around it.

Outgoing EU Affairs Minister and career diplomat Mevlut Cavusoglu becomes foreign minister, replacing Davutoglu, suggesting that reinvigorating Turkey’s stalled European Union membership negotiations could be a priority. Volkan Bozkir, the former head of parliament’s foreign relations commission who has held several diplomatic posts in Europe, takes over as EU minister.

Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, who had responsibility for economic affairs in the last cabinet, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek and Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci all kept their posts, as did Energy Minister Taner Yildiz.

“This is a conservative cabinet in the sense that there are no breaks with the former political team of Erdogan, especially on economic policy,” said Sinan Ulgen, head of the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies in Istanbul.

“This shows that the Davutoglu government is very much aware of Turkey’s economic vulnerability and is not going to take any risks,” he said.

Babacan is widely respected by foreign investors, who had hoped he would retain responsibility for economic affairs. Kurtulmus, a former economics professor, said the portfolios of Turkey’s four deputy prime ministers would be clarified at the first cabinet meeting, which is expected in the coming days.

Turkey’s financial markets were largely unmoved, with the lira slightly firmer and stocks outperforming peers, but they will be monitoring the balance of power between Babacan and Kurtulmus in the coming days.

REUTERS

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