GeriGündem Turkey's ruling AKP signals cabinet reshuffle ahead of local elections
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Turkey's ruling AKP signals cabinet reshuffle ahead of local elections

Turkey's ruling AKP signals cabinet reshuffle ahead of local elections
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Turkish politics shifts up a gear as local elections near, with PM Tayyip Erdogan considering a cabinet reshuffle to include its lone Alevi deputy in an effort to win back the community’s votes from the main opposition CHP, the Hurriyet Daily News (HDN) reported on Monday. (UPDATED)

To appease the hearts of millions of Alevis before the local elections in March 2009, the government is planning to shuffle the cabinet and find room for Camuroglu, the only Alevi deputy of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The AKP has designs on the Culture and Tourism Ministry, HDN reported.  

It will be turned into two separate ministries and Camuroglu will be appointed as Culture Minister while Ertugrul Gunay, the current Culture and Tourism Minister, will maintain his post as Tourism Minister, sources told HDN.

Camuroglu, whose name has been mentioned as a possible future minister, served as a special consultant to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Alevi issues but later resigned from this post due to the government not keeping its promises. But Camuroglu, a historian known for his liberal views, joined the party before the July 22 general elections last year and remained a member of the AKP, despite his uneasiness.

In Turkey, the majority of the members of the Alevi community traditionally vote for the social democrat or leftist parties. The pro-Islamic AKP, whose founders are Sunni, aim at attracting some of these votes through moderate messages toward the Alevis. With Çamuroglu's resignation from his post as a special advisor to PM, the government's ignorance of Alevi issues was also criticized abroad.

"NEW BLOOD NEEDED BEFORE ELECTIONS"
Aside from keeping a post for an Alevi deputy in the cabinet, the AKP will also renew its cabinet in the shuffle, the exact date of which has not yet been determined.

According to information acquired by the Daily News, there are two basic approaches to the issue that came to prominence among AKP deputies. One claims Erdogan will shuffle the cabinet before the new year, while the latter says he will postpone it until after the March 2009 elections. Those who defend the first option stress that some ministers are tired and the cabinet needs revision.

"New blood is needed before local elections," they said stressing that the latest shuffle occurred after the July 22 elections.

However, other deputies claimed Erdogan was not in favor of a cabinet shuffle before the local elections, as he does not like frequently changing his team. After July 22 elections, eight new ministers took their place in a cabinet of 25. Together with Erdogan's presidency, the number of ministers who have held their posts since 2002 is 16.

POST CHANGES FOR MINISTERS IN SIGHT
When the number of ministers who hold their posts for almost six years is high, the number of those in the AKP who support a cabinet shuffle increases as well. If the shuffle takes place, many ministers will have to undergo a change in the terms of their posts.

While Health Minister Recep Akdag will be transferred to the Social Security Ministry on the basis that many institutions under the Health Ministry's authority will go to the Labor Ministry after social security reforms. Adana deputy and former health undersecretary, Necdet Unvar, and president of the health commission, Cevdet Erdol, are potential names for the post.

According to sources, a replacement is also being thought of for the Energy Ministry since current Energy Minister Hilmi Guler has been serving for six years. He would be replaced by either AKP's Siirt Deputy Afif Demirkiran or Kayseri Deputy Taner Yildiz. Yildiz serves as a consultant to Erdogan and acts as a coordinator between the president and the government.

The state minister responsible for foreign trade, Kursat Tuzmen, is another who has been in his post for over five years. However, Turkey's latest food crisis with Russia caused a conflict between Tuzmen and the government. Thus there is speculation mounting toward his replacement.

In the possible cabinet shuffle, a state ministry responsible for the EU will also be established. Parliamentary EU Integration Committee Chairman Yasar Yakis, or Antalya deputy and Head of the Turkish delegation to PACE, Mevlut Cavusoglu, are the possibilities for the post.

Due to the corruption claims against the AKP's ex-deputy leader, Saban Disli and AKP Deputy Leader Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat that have caused trouble for the AKP, a revision within the party before local elections is also on Erdogan's agenda. Sources say Erdogan is thinking about giving places to new people in the Central Execution Board.

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