Turkey’s President Erdogan announces new cabinet

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 into his third presidential term on Saturday, changed almost all of his cabinet members except for the ministers for health and culture.

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.

His appointment could mark a departure from years of unorthodox economic policies under Erdogan, which have included maintaining low interest rates despite soaring inflation and heavy state control of markets.

A former Merrill Lynch economist, Simsek is known to oppose Erdogan’s unconventional policies.

Turkey is grappling with a cost-of-living crisis and inflation soared to 85 percent in October before easing to 44 percent in May. The currency has lost more than 10 percent of its value against the dollar since the start of the 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 Organisation (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 defence 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 “dudes 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 told Al Jazeera.

“And he’s giving all this key portfolios to people that he trusts to deliver.”