Monday, 1 September 2014

Erdoğan-Davutoğlu dynamic continues

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) with his new prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu. Photo: AA

Last Thursday, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was officially sworn in as the 12th president of the Republic of Turkey following his victory in the country's first public elections for a head of state. Erdoğan, a three-time prime minister and in power since 2003, was elected president on August 10 after he secured 52% of the vote, beating Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu and Selahattin Demirtaş.

Erdoğan’s inauguration ceremony started with an oath in Parliament where he vowed to protect Turkey's independence and integrity, to abide by the constitution and the secular principles established by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He then visited Atatürk’s mausoleum and laid a wreath before being driven with a military cavalcade to the presidential palace where he was greeted by outgoing president Abdullah Gül.
Outgoing president Abdullah Gül at Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's inauguration, 28 Aug
90 states represented at Erdoğan's inauguration
World leaders and senior representatives of some 90 states from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe attended a reception in his honour in the evening. They included the Bulgarian, Bosnian, Ethiopian, Kazakh, Ukranian and TRNC presidents, along with the emir of Qatar, and Armenia and Iran's foreign ministers.

The ceremony in Parliament was boycotted by the main opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party) who were critical of the delay in the official announcement of Erdoğan as President.

'New Turkish prime minister Davutoğlu untouched by corruption allegations that rocked the government last December'

The following day, the spotlight turned to Ahmet Davutoğlu, the man Erdoğan had nominated to succeed him as ruling party chairman and prime minister. The new job for Turkey’s foreign minister was confirmed at a special congress of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) on the evening before the presidential inauguration. His first task was to present his new cabinet to the President on Friday 29 August.

New Turkish cabinet
There was little change from the one Davutoğlu had inherited: three ministers departed including deputy prime minister (PM) Beşir Atalay. Four new names entered the government: Yalçın Akdoğan and Numan Kurtulmuş as deputy PMs, Nurettin Canikli takes over at the Customs and Trade Ministry, while Volkan Bozkır becomes EU Affairs Minister as incumbent Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu moves into the vacant foreign minister’s chair. There is again only one female in cabinet: Ayşenur İslam retains her role as the Family and Social Policies Minister.
Ayşenur İslam - only female minister. Photo: Şafak Yalçın

Davutoğlu, untouched by the corruption allegations that rocked the AKP government last December, is a close ally of Erdoğan. Formerly his advisor, the academic was promoted to the job of Foreign Minister in 2009. An academic and fluent in several languages he rose to prominence as the architect of Turkey’s successful “Zero Problems with Neighbours” foreign policy that resulted in expanded trade, investment, and cultural exchanges in the region.

In recent years, his neo-Ottoman, pan-Islamic strategy to elevate Turkey’s status globally has faltered as the country grapples with crisis-torn neighbouring states, while Ankara is increasingly isolated from many of its regional and Western allies.

Critics argue that Erdoğan has deliberately orchestrated the rise of his closest supporters in government at the expense of AKP co-founder Abdullah Gül to ensure he continues to dominate Turkish politics. Erdoğan is on record for wanting a presidential system to replace Turkey’s current parliamentary tradition and ceremonial head of state.

With Davutoğlu at the helm, the Turkish government will aim to steer a steady ship into next year’s general elections, keeping the country’s economy buoyant, and progressing the Kurdish Issue and the EU accession talks. If, as expected, AKP secures another big majority win in 2015, it would help create the necessary dynamic to further shift the balance of power into Erdoğan’s hands.

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