ANKARA - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s move to change almost a dozen positions in his cabinet has radicalized the government with the appointment of conservatives to replace liberals.
The appointment of former speaker of the parliament, Bulent Arinc, is seen as the one of the most important and significant decision taken by Erdogan. Arinc, whose political roots lie in the National View, or “Milli Gorus” in Turkish, a political movement which is based on Islamic thoughts, has raised eyebrows with his assessments, in particular his thoughts on the headscarf issue.
Arinc, one of the founders of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, together with Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, has been appointed to the post of deputy prime minister, a position which is also a member of the National Security Council.
Another radical name in the new cabinet is Omer Dincer, appointed as the labor minister. Dincer, a former academic, came under fire for his statements against secularism and during his term as prime ministry secretary, the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, demanded his resignation.
Erdogan also replaced Foreign Minister Ali Babacan with Ahmet Davutoglu, his top foreign policy advisor, who is seen as the architect of Turkish foreign policy in recent years. Davutoglu is close to both Erdogan and Gul.
Davutoglu was considered weak on the European Union front, but it is likely that Erdogan seeks to close this gap with State Minister and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bagis.
The revisions include important changes in the economy management of
Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan is replaced by Economy Minister Mehmet Simsek. This decision came after Unakitan suffered major health problems and underwent a by-pass surgery in the
Simsek was expected to be replaced but the decision to appoint him as Finance Minister came as a surprise.
Three politicians, known for their close ties with Gul, have taken important roles in the new Cabinet, a signal that Erdogan has taken the sensitive relations within the party into consideration.
Besir Atalay remains in his post as interior minister, while Taner Yildiz, a deputy from
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek, a liberal, held his position as State Minister, while Nimet Cubukcu replaced Huseyin Celik becoming the first female Education Minister. The appointment of Selma Aliye Kavaf as a state minister raises the number of female ministers to two.
Two prominent executives of the AKP, Sadullah Ergin and Nihat Ergun, also joined the Cabinet. Ergun was appointed as industry minister, while Ergin, who earlier worked on the draft of a new constitution, was appointed as justice minister.
Ministers who lost the local elections in March in their electoral provinces also lost their seat in the Cabinet. They include Mehmet Ali Sahin, Huseyin Celik, Kursad Tuzmen, Hilmi Guler, and Unakitan.