Erdogan reshapes Turkish government, opposition warns of one-man rule

Under the new presidential system, Erdogan will have wide-ranging executive powers and the role of parliament is greatly diminished.
Thursday 05/07/2018
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives to deliver a speech in Istanbul, after initial results of Turkey's presidential and parliamentary elections, on June 24, 2018. (AFP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives to deliver a speech in Istanbul, after initial results of Turkey's presidential and parliamentary elections, on June 24, 2018. (AFP)

ISTANBUL - Following his election victory last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is embarking on the biggest reform of the country’s governmental system in decades, despite opposition warnings of a one-man rule with unchecked powers.

Under the new presidential system, confirmed in the June 24 elections that gave Erdogan, 64, a new 5-year term, the head of state will have wide-ranging executive powers and the role of parliament is greatly diminished.

Because the post of prime minister is scrapped, the cabinet will be responsible to Erdogan, not to parliament as before. A government decree issued July 4 changed the wording in some 5,000 laws, removing references to the prime minister and transferring certain powers to the president. The switch to the new system will be complete with Erdogan’s oath of office on July 9. His cabinet is to be announced the same day.

Erdogan argues that the new system will be more efficient than the old one. In a television interview before the election, he deplored the “sluggishness” of the parliamentary order. “We aim to clear the way,” he said. Mahir Unal, spokesman of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, said the new system would bring “efficient trouble-shooting and decision-making mechanisms.”

However, the opposition Republican People’s Party says the new order introduces a “one-man regime” that lacks checks and balances to rein in the powers of the president.

In the new era, Erdogan as the central player is surrounded by ministers, advisers and institutions in a configuration that the media has compared to the solar system with the sun and the planets. The number of ministries will be reduced from 26 to 16 and at least three vice-presidents -- whose posts were created under the presidential system -- will oversee policies. In a move welcomed by investors, the number of ministries dealing with economic matters is halved to three.

In parallel to the ministries, nine councils, dealing with issues ranging from social policy to security and foreign policy, will produce proposals and reports. Four offices will be tasked with matters from human resources to investment. Eight directorates, among them the military’s general staff, the intelligence service and the national security council, will also work for Erdogan.

As Erdogan has not commented publicly on who is to fill the posts in the new government, intense speculation has begun. Before the election, Erdogan hinted he might appoint successful business people and technocrats to top posts. Media reports said several high-ranking bureaucrats could become ministers. Erdogan’s son-in law and heir apparent, Berat Albayrak, is expected to keep his job as energy minister.

Two names have been mentioned for foreign minister: the incumbent, Mevlut Cavusoglu, and Erdogan’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin. The 50-year-old Cavusoglu, in office since 2015, has been re-elected as a lawmaker and would have to give up his seat in parliament to continue as minister. Kalin, 46, is a specialist on relations between Islam and the West and served as Erdogan’s foreign policy adviser from 2009-12 before becoming presidential spokesman in 2014.