What Turkey’s new cabinet says about where the country is headed

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President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan swore to new office over the weekend, inaugurating what he called “a new period of glory” for the Republic of Turkey as it enters its second century, and the one he hopes for consolidate his rule over a nation of 85 million

Cabinet appointments hint at a return to orthodox economic policy while maintaining a foreign policy focus as the president approaches his third decade in office.

On the economic front, Mehmet Simsek’s return to the post of finance minister – a post he previously held between 2009 and 2015 before becoming Erdogan’s deputy prime minister – has been eagerly anticipated in business circles at home and abroad.

When Simsek’s predecessor Nureddin Nebati formally handed over his portfolio on Sunday, his sigh of relief was picked up on the microphones. This is not surprising given the state of the Turkish economy. Erdogan’s unorthodox economic policies over the past few years have led to a cost-of-living crisis and rapidly falling Turkish lira. Efforts to protect the battered currency have sent the Turkish central bank’s reserves to an all-time low. The lira fell 7% on Wednesday to hit 22.98 against the US dollar, Reuters reported. This is what Sims faces when he takes office.

“Transparency, consistency, predictability and compliance with international norms will be our main principles in achieving this goal in the coming period,” Sims said in his first speech since his appointment to this post. “Turkey has no other choice but to return to a rational basis. A rules-based and predictable Turkish economy will be the key to achieving the desired prosperity.”

With this message, Simsek can convince foreign investors and inspire enough hope at home to save the G20 economy afloat

But his real uphill battle may be to convince Erdogan himself. While Simsek is likely to be the chief architect of the New Economic Policy, the president’s other appointments suggest that he may adopt different economic views, according to Mehmet Celik, editorial coordinator for the pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper. Vice President Cevdet Yilmaz is a professional bureaucrat and economist, while Trade Minister Omer Bolat has a background in business. “The election was strategic, so there will be a new balance,” Selick told CNN.

On the international stage Türkiye launched a power politics through the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense, along with Turkish intelligence, which has expanded its presence in the region and paved an independent path for the NATO member. In this respect, continuity is likely.

The new foreign minister is well known to the Turks and international players who have recently been negotiating with Turkey. Hakan Fidan, who has served as head of the Turkish Intelligence Agency (MIT) since 2010, has been present in every room and every discussion that has been critical to Turkey’s foreign policy over the past few years. He is always present but rarely heard – a shadowy diplomat in Erdogan’s foreign policy arsenal who has charted rough waters in Syria, Libya and elsewhere.

Fidan played a central role in shaping and executing foreign policy, along with the former Chief Spokesman and de facto national security adviser Ibrahim Kalinwho now took up his old position as head of intelligence.

“I will continue to improve our vision of a national foreign policy based on the sovereign will of our people and the independence of our state from all spheres of influence,” Fidan said at the handover ceremony.

Ankara’s foreign policy has brought it into collision with neighbors, allies and partners, including Greece, with which it has tense relations in the eastern Mediterranean, and Western countries over a perceived threat from U.S.-backed Kurdish groups in northern Syria.

“Turkey is ready to lower its guard when it comes to the West,” he said. “But when the West takes everything and gives nothing, Turkey does not want to agree to this … It will continue to stand firm and resist dictate,” Celik said.

These strained relationships will not be easy to mend, but Fidan, in his previous role as head of the spy ring, was adept at negotiating breakthroughs in complex relationships. He intervened to mend damaged relations with the Gulf Arab states and was the driving force behind the slow rapprochement between Damascus and Ankara. Now the shadow diplomat is entering an era where he is Turkey’s main voice abroad.

All eyes will be on him when he moves. Sweden’s attempt to join NATO. While the US and European NATO members rushed to accept the Scandinavian country, Turkey delayed membership due to what Ankara says Sweden is harboring the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which is banned in Turkey, the EU and the United States. Sweden recognized that the group’s activities in the country were “extensive” and “more of a problem than we thought”.

In the interior ministry, self-proclaimed tough guy Suleiman Soylu is being replaced by career official and former Istanbul governor Ali Yerlikaya. His portfolio is one of the largest in the country. Yerlikay’s main focus will be the continuous response to the earthquake, which more than 50,000 people died in southern Turkey, 3.5 million Syrian refugees in the country and ongoing counter-terrorism efforts against the PKK.

With broad support across Turkey’s political spectrum, the fight against terrorism is likely to remain the same, Celik said, but the ministry’s tone is likely to change. Yerlikaya is a softer-voiced politician who has quietly ruled Istanbul since 2018 and is unlikely to emulate Soylu’s blunt rhetorical style. A change of tone could help overcome some of the social divisions that have plagued Turkey in recent years.

However, the outgoing cabinet members are far from retired. Soylu, former Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and former Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu are all MPs from Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). They have just been sworn in for a new term in parliament, underscoring the party’s immense strength. Their voices are likely to sound louder than the voices of opposition MPs, who will now find it even more difficult to convince voters of their position in the legislature.

Overall, the new cabinet is a departure from the political appointments that have defined an era in Turkey since the 2015 coup attempt, relying instead on a strong pool of technocrats.

As Erdogan leads the Republic of Turkey into a second century, he appears to be taking a back-to-basics approach. With an unprecedented level of social polarization, an economic crisis and a region rife with difficulties, the cabinet has the potential to correct some of the economic mistakes of previous years while maintaining the foreign policy line. But a lot will depend on what Erdogan wants, because in Turkey the responsibility falls on him.