Turkish PM Erdogan elevates loyalists to rebuild cabinet
Deepening corruption scandal claims first victims from PM’s inner circle
Turkey’s outgoing economy minister Zafer Caglayan (centre) is flanked during a handover ceremony yesterday in Ankara by newly named minister Nihat Zeybekci (second from left) and former European affairs minister Egemen Bagis (second from right). Photograph: Reuters/Umit Bektas
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has elevated loyalists to rebuild his cabinet and fight a deepening corruption scandal that claimed its first victims from his inner circle and sent markets plunging.
Mr Erdogan replaced 10 ministers in his 26-member cabinet, parting ways with those implicated in the probe, seen as the battleground in a struggle with a former long- time ally. He appointed his deputy minister, Bekir Bozdag, as justice minister to lead the legal battle allegedly against followers of a US- based imam, Fethullah Gulen, who fell out with Mr Erdogan recently.
Six months after routing opposition-led protests in the centre of Istanbul, Mr Erdogan is embroiled in clash that has divided the police and judiciary. Its outcome may determine the fate and legacy of the 59-year-old prime minister ahead of local and presidential elections next year.
“This is a cabinet based on loyalty, designed to restore discipline and for damage control,” said Nihat Ali Ozcan, an analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation in Ankara. Turkey’s lira weakened to a record against the dollar yesterday on concerns that the widening scandal was creating instability in Mr Erdogan’s government. The currency has slumped 18.2 per cent this year. The Borsa Istanbul 100 index dropped to the lowest level on a closing basis since August 2012.
“This is the independence struggle for a new Turkey,” Mr Erdogan said yesterday, hours before President Abdullah Gul approved cabinet changes.
Mr Erdogan told reporters on a return flight from Pakistan on Christmas Eve that his son may be targeted to tighten the political noose around him.
“They are targeting my son, implicating him through Turgev,” Mr Erdogan said, referring to the Turkey Youth and Education Service Foundation run by his family.
“They will be left empty-handed if they try to hit at Erdogan in this way,” he added.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party, said
Mr Erdogan had formed a “war cabinet” with the appointment of his undersecretary Efkan Ala as interior minister.
“Almost all new members, excluding the new interior minister, have no experience in state bureaucracy,” said Mehmet Kaya, president of the Tigris Communal Research Centre, based in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir. “The cabinet will probably work in harmony, under orders from Erdogan.”
The government has so far dismissed about 500 police chiefs and officers in retaliation for the detention of sons of three ministers as well as the chief executive officer of state-run Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS, according to Zaman newspaper. – (Bloomberg)