In the midst of a lengthy and tumultuous political process, the Turkish capital marked yet another milestone yesterday, when President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan chaired a Cabinet meeting in his current capacity as prime minister for the last time.
Still, it would not be surprising for the public if Turkey’s new head of state gathers the Council of Ministers and chairs a Cabinet meeting while in the presidential Çankaya Palace, as he has constantly made clear that he is determined to use all the authorities granted to him by the Constitution.
In the run-up to the recent presidential election and after the election which he won by a popular vote, Erdoğan has repeatedly argued that the current Constitution grants “executive power” to a president who comes to office via the popular vote, just as the 1982 Constitution granted “executive power” to coup leader Kenan Evren.
Erdoğan, 60, will make a flamboyant entrance to the new and highest stage of his political career on Aug. 28, with more than a dozen heads of states and governments having already announced plans to attend the official ceremony when outgoing President Abdullah Gül hands over office to Erdoğan. Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek has already called for an extraordinary session of the General Assembly to gather when Erdoğan takes his oath of office before Parliament.
Erdoğan is expected to formally name Davutoğlu, 55, as prime minister and provide him with a mandate to form a new Cabinet on the same day as he takes office as president on Aug. 28. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) plans to call Parliament’s General Assembly for an extraordinary session on Aug. 30 for the reading out of the government’s program, if the new Cabinet is published in the Official Gazette on Aug. 29.
For his part, Davutoğlu has been concentrating on his next post after Erdoğan announced on Aug. 21, following a meeting of his ruling AKP’s executive body, that the party was designating Davutoğlu to replace him as the party’s new leader and prime minister.
Priorities and Babacan
During his first meeting with Erdoğan’s inner Cabinet after being named Erdoğan’s successor, Davutoğlu vowed to maintain economic stability, including working with Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan in the new Cabinet.
Davutoğlu held a meeting at his ruling AKP headquarters on Aug. 24 in order to work on his government’s program, as well as the upcoming extraordinary congress.
After being briefed by AKP Deputy Chair Süleyman Soylu concerning preparations for the Aug. 27 congress, at which he will be formally nominated as the party’s new chair, Davutoğlu held a lengthy meeting with key members of the Cabinet, focusing on the new government’s program. Interior Minister Efkan Ala, Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik, Transport Minister Lütfi Elvan, Youth and Sports Minister Çağatay Kılıç, AKP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Nurettin Canikli, AKP Ankara deputy and top adviser to Erdoğan, Yalçın Akdoğan, and AKP İzmir deputy and another key adviser to Erdoğan, Binali Yıldırım, were among the attendees at the three-hour meeting.
Meanwhile, on the evening of Aug. 23, Davutoğlu’s residence was the venue for a more confidential meeting, which was attended only by Babacan, Akdoğan and Elvan.
The Aug. 23 meeting was held in a “positive atmosphere,” with Davutoğlu reportedly telling Babacan about his wish to continue “working together in the new Cabinet and resuming Babacan’s economy policies,” one source said.
The markets broadly consider the fates of Babacan, the government’s point-man on the economy, and Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek to be vital, as both are regarded as the guarantors of sensible economic policies under the AKP.
Reports last week had suggested that Babacan could be heading for the door, but his prominence in Erdoğan’s recent appearances has changed minds.
“Recent news suggests that Babacan and Şimşek, the market’s two favorite ministers, are likely to retain their positions in the new Cabinet,” said Finansbank in a note to its clients.
Not a puppet
While hectic work is continuing at the Ankara Arena Sports Hall to prepare for the extraordinary congress on Aug. 27, in Istanbul the AKP provincial chair Aziz Babuşçu was emphasizing that Davutoğlu would not be a “puppet,” despite claims to the contrary by the two major opposition parties.
According to Babuşçu, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are both seeking ways of creating an internal conflict within the AKP.
“There is something which they forgot. The AK Party is not an ordinary party. That’s why [CHP leader Kemal] Kılıçdaroğlu and others who think like him should not daydream for nothing,” he said at a press conference yesterday.
“Our new prime minister has a very strong character that he wouldn’t be a puppet. He also has sufficient consciousness to know that being with Erdoğan means being with the nation,” Babuşçu added.