The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, announced his new cabinet after a lavish inauguration ceremony on Saturday, marking the beginning of his third decade in office with appointments intended to hint at a move towards orthodox economic policy and muscular diplomacy.
At a swearing in where he attempted to strike a unifying tone in contrast with much of his campaign, Erdoğan said: “We will embrace all 85 million people of Turkey, regardless of their political view, roots, creed or sect.”
The inauguration was attended by heads of state including the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, Azerbaijani’s president, Ilham Aliyev, the Pakistani prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, and the Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan.
Also in attendance was the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, reportedly in Turkey to pressure Ankara to allow Sweden to join the organisation “as early as possible”.
Erdoğan, whose re-election was buoyed up by a newly hard-right coalition in the Turkish parliament, has repeatedly accused Sweden of harbouring Kurdish militants hostile to the Turkish state.
He told CNN in a recent interview that “we cannot look favourably on Sweden’s membership in Nato”, amid increasing demands for Sweden’s membership from the White House, including during a congratulatory phone call with Joe Biden.
The Turkish president won re-election with 52.18% compared with his rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu with 47.82% last week, after a campaign where the opposition challenged Erdoğan on his economic record as well as the country’s increasing shift towards one-man rule.
A cabinet reshuffle as well as the return of widely respected economist Mehmet Şimşek provided signs of a potential new direction for Erdoğan’s rule, after his previous five-year term was marked by an increasingly unorthodox economic policy.
The choice to appoint Hakan Fidan, the longtime head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT), as foreign minister to replace tenured diplomat Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu suggests a future potential shift in Turkey’s style of foreign relations.
Fidan headed MIT for 13 years, and has had recent meetings in Moscow with his Russian, Iranian and Syrian counterparts concerning the conflict in Syria.
“He is my secret-keeper, he is the state’s secret-keeper,” Erdoğan once said of Fidan.
Erdoğan’s decision to name Şimşek finance minister was heralded in the domestic and financial press in advance of the announcement, with the move expected to reassure markets as the Turkish lira hit a new low during Erdoğan’s inauguration, trading near 21 to the dollar.
Şimşek’s appointment, along with a potential new head of the Turkish central bank, provided tentative signs that Erdoğan could be willing to relinquish some of his control over the central bank, as well as move away from economic policies founded on his belief that interest rates cause, rather than curb, inflation.
Some observers said that while Şimşek’s appointment was welcome the real test would be in what policies emerge from the new cabinet.
Liam Peach of Capital Economics wrote that Şimşek’s appointment to the cabinet “provides encouraging signs that President Erdogan will moderate his economic policies. But there are still question marks about whether policymakers are about to embark on a fully fledged return to orthodoxy.”
Şimşek previously served as Erdoğan’s deputy prime minister prior to the introduction of a presidential system, as well as minister of finance after seven years at investment firm Merrill Lynch, a short period with UBS on Wall Street and as chief economist at the US embassy in Ankara.
His departure from government also heralded a clear shift away from conventional economics. Turkey has had four different heads of the central bank since 2018, a period in which the Turkish lira has plummeted, including losing over half its value relative to the dollar in one year alone.
Skyrocketing inflation has come in tandem with a cost of living crisis affecting the majority of Turkish citizens. The unofficial Inflation Research Group, ENAG, calculates Turkey’s year-on-year inflation as 105.19%, with notable price increases in the cost of food.