Erdogan names Simsek as finance minister in new Cabinet

June 04, 2023
Former economy chief and internationally respected ex-banker Mehmet Simsek has been named as treasury and finance minister in Turkey's new Cabinet.
Former economy chief and internationally respected ex-banker Mehmet Simsek has been named as treasury and finance minister in Turkey's new Cabinet.

ANKARA — Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has named former economy chief and internationally respected ex-banker Mehmet Simsek as treasury and finance minister as he unveiled his new Cabinet.

Erdogan, who was sworn in for his third presidential term on Saturday, changed almost all of his Cabinet members except for the ministers for health and culture.

Erdogan reappointed an internationally respected former banker as finance minister in a sign that his new government might pursue more conventional economic policies.

Simsek, a former London-based Merrill Lynch banker, returns to the Cabinet as treasury and finance minister after a five-year break from politics.

The appointment comes as Turkey is grappling with a cost-of-living crisis fueled by inflation that peaked at a staggering 85% in October before easing to 44% last month.

The Turkish currency has lost more than 10% of its value against the dollar since the start of the year.

Critics blame the turmoil on Erdogan's policy of lowering interest rates to promote growth, which runs contrary to conventional economic thinking that rates should rise to combat inflation.

Simsek's appointment is seen as an indication that Erdogan may abandon policies that many economists have branded as "unorthodox."

Simsek was highly regarded by investors when he served as finance minister between 2009 and 2015 and deputy prime minister in charge of the economy until 2018, before stepping down in advance of a series of lira crashes that year.

Hakan Fidan, Erdogan’s intelligence chief and a former soldier, was named as the new foreign minister replacing Mevlut Cavusoglu, who has served in the role since 2014.

One of Erdogan’s closest aides, Fidan has headed the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) since 2010 and before that was an adviser to Erdogan in the prime minister’s office.

In 2012, Fidan was the subject of an inquiry, subsequently quashed, over secret peace talks that MIT had held with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) armed group in Oslo.

Yasar Guler, chief of general staff of the Turkish armed forces, was announced as defense minister, replacing Hulusi Akar. The 69-year-old was the military chief during Turkey’s military incursions into Syria in 2019 and 2020, and oversaw subsequent military operations there and in Iraq.

Erdogan also announced that Cevdet Yilmaz will be his vice president. Yilmaz has previously served as minister of development, deputy chairman of Erdogan’s Adalet ve Kalkınma Party’s (Justice and Development Party, AK Party) economic affairs and as deputy prime minister in charge of the economy.

Yilmaz, 56, has been the chairman of the Turkish Parliament’s Planning and Budget Commission since November 2020. Ziya Meral, senior associate fellow at the European Leadership Network, described Fidan, Guler and Yilmaz as “doers Erdogan can count on”.

“The message all of this for the next 10 months, and if not, for the next few years is going to be that Erdogan is focusing on strengthening against political opposition, addressing some of the concerns that almost cost them this election and pursue his vision for this new century of the Republic,” Meral said.

Earlier, dozens of foreign dignitaries attended Erdogan's inauguration ceremony at his vast presidential complex in Ankara.

They included NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Carl Bildt, a high-profile former Swedish prime minister. Stockholm hopes to press Erdogan to lift his country's objections to Sweden's membership in the military alliance — which requires unanimous approval by all allies.

Turkey accuses Sweden of being too soft on Kurdish militants and other groups that Turkey considers to be terrorists.

NATO wants to bring Sweden into the alliance by the time allied leaders meet in Lithuania on July 11-12, but Turkey and Hungary have yet to endorse the bid.

Other leaders in attendance included Azerbaijan's Ilham Aliyev, Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, Armenia's Nikol Pashinyan, Pakistan's Shehbaz Sharif and Libya's Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.

The republic will be celebrating its centennial in October, and so presiding over a new "Turkish century" became an important campaign slogan for Erdogan.

During his inauguration ceremony, Erdogan hailed "the start of the Turkish century, a new period of glory for our country."

"I invite all 81 provinces to come together in fraternity. Let us leave behind the resentments of the campaign. Let us find a way to make up for hurt feelings. Let's all work together to build the Turkish century," he said.

He also expressed his intention to introduce a new constitution, saying: "We will liberate our democracy from the present constitution produced by (the 1980) military coup, and strengthen it with a freedom-promoting, civilian and inclusive constitution." — Agencies

June 04, 2023
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