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Erdogan Keeps his Grip on the Government to Set the Stage for Presidential System | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Ankara, Turkey July 19, 2017. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

Ankara- Turkey’s government witnessed a reshuffle on Wednesday after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Ankara.

A cabinet reshuffle has been on the agenda since Erdogan had regained his seat as chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) after the April 16 referendum.

Erdogan had complained of a “fatigue” within the ruling party, speaking of a need for rejuvenation.

Yıldırım held a press conference Wednesday regarding the changes in the cabinet. Out of the reshuffle involving 11 ministers, six were new names, appointed to ministerial posts for the first time.

He said that five ministers would be replaced. Former Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, former Health Minister Recep Akdag and former Defense Minister Fikri Isık were appointed as deputy prime ministers.

These changes indicate that Yıldırım wanted to work with figures he can better cooperate in the new process.

“All our friends who have been appointed to the cabinet and those who are leaving have outstanding qualifications. This is a flag race, a regeneration of the government,” Yıldırım told reporters after he announced the new cabinet.

Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek, who is in charge of economy, kept his seat in the cabinet and became the sole deputy prime minister running the economy.

With the cabinet reshuffle, a new era will start with the aim to create key legal, political and economic structures for the new presidential system.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus was announced as the new culture and tourism minister.

The 65th government in Turkish republican history, also known as the Yıldırım cabinet, was formed on May 24, 2016, after former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s resignation on May 5.

Until Wednesday, the only change in the cabinet had taken place with former Interior Minister Efkan Ala’s resignation on August 31, 2016. Ala was replaced with Suleyman Soylu, labor and social security minister at the time, and Mehmet Müezzinoglu was appointed to Soylu’s former post.

Despite expectations, no major changes have taken place in the foreign team. EU Minister Omer Celik and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu preserved their places although speculations were high that Erdogan’s chief foreign policy advisor Ibrahim Kalın could resume a role in a foreign-policy related position at the cabinet.

Turkey’s referendum approved a series of constitutional changes abolishing the office of the prime minister and concentrating much of the executive powers in the hands of the president.

While most of the changes will come into effect after the next general elections in 2019, one amendment came into effect immediately — scrapping laws that require the head of the state to sever ties with political parties.

Erdogan was reelected chairman of the ruling party in an extraordinary congress on May 21.

The cabinet reshuffle is seen as a major step toward his cementing his authority and putting his mark on the government ahead of the 2019 elections.