The last strike that led President Tayyip Erdoğan to fire Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan with a late-night decree in the early hours of April 21 should be her acceptance of selling disinfection goods to the ministry by her husband’s company on the grounds of “below market price.”
Pekcan was not a prominent minister in the cabinet. She could even be counted as the “weak link”. Nevertheless, she had the support of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) and the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEİK) as a minister.
It had been a long time that a minister wasn’t dismissed over claims of corruption. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Ali Öztunç took the issue to parliament and asked for Pekcan’s resignation. Apparently, Erdoğan did not want to allow Pekcan to resign and save her pride.
New Minister Mehmet Muş was not a surprise. Just give an ear to the backstage information to find out why.
After the dismissal of Central Bank Governor Naci Ağbal with a similar midnight decree exactly one month ago, on March 20, the efforts to separate the Treasury and the Finance accelerated.
The idea of re-assigning separate ministers to the Treasury and Finance, which Erdoğan brought together in 2018 and brought his son-in-law Berat Albayrak to head it, emerged with the resignation of Albayrak. In the backstage at the time it was speculated that if Erdoğan would decide on such a separation, Lütfi Elvan would remain the treasury minister and Mehmet Muş would become the finance minister.
Albayrak is gone but his impact continues
So who is Mehmet Muş?
Muş is a figure known for his closeness to Berat Albayrak. He is from the Black Sea province of Trabzon like Albayrak. When Albayrak resigned on social media on Nov. 8, 2020, Muş asked the president to “condone” Albayrak not to leave office.
In the Wikileaks documents published in 2016, it was claimed that Muş, who helped to complete the doctoral thesis of Albayrak at Marmara University, was “very bad” for not addressing Albayrak as “elder brother” and therefore “apologized”. The thesis advisor Albayrak at the university was Istanbul Stock Exchange Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Turkey Wealth Funds Erisah Arıcan. She was also the thesis advisor to Şahap Kavcıoğlu, whom Erdoğan appointed as the Central Bank Governor to replace Naci Ağbal. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Banking Regulation and Supervision Board (BBDK) and the Japanese Credit Assessment Agency JCR Eurasia.
Nice coincidence, right? The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) elites concept does not emerge from out of nowhere.
So now that a seat has been found for Muş, Nurettin Canikli, an AKP deputy chair, can now become the finance minister.
The summary of this scene is that although Albayrak is gone, his influence on economic management continues with names close to him.
Since there is an office in Muş, if the ministries are separated, AK Party Deputy Chairman Nurettin Canikli may also be the Minister of Finance, why not?
Other ministries, new ministers
Maybe the Trade Ministry was not on the agenda at the cabinet shift that came on April 21 but separating the Family and LAbor ministries was. The separation of the ministers of Culture and Tourism, Agriculture and Forestry, Environment and Urbanization is also awaiting Erdoğan’s approval.
The Ministries of Family and Labor were separated by the midnight decree and Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk was expected to remain in the family ministry, but she left. She was under opposition fire due to her remarks that “poverty in Turkey has ended.”
Derya Yanık, a member of the Women and Democracy Association (KADEM), was appointed instead.
New Minister Yanık is a lawyer known for her defense of the Ensar foundation during the debates about the rape of 45 boys, and later for deeming suspects tried at the Ergenekon case, which later was named a plot by Fethullah Gülenists and dropped, guilty “with no need for a trial.”
Her tweets insulting Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader in 2015, who was not Erdoğan’s election ally but an opponent at the time, went viral on social media after her appointment.
On the other hand, the new Labor Minister Vedat Bilgin is an AKP with MHP roots. He was a former manager at a Turkish rails company. He was an advisor to Bahçeli before he became an advisor to Erdoğan. Like the new Central Bank Governor Kavcıoğlu, he is from the small northeastern province of Bayburt.
It has been known that Erdoğan has worked for restructuring the ministries.
The cabinet shift became with the “weakest link,” the minister who sold goods to her own ministry from her husband’s company. And followed separating the Family and Labor Ministry into two.
The most difficult one should be the separation of the Treasury and Finance Ministry.
New ministries require new ministers, cadres, armies of consultants and experts, new salaries. So it is normal that the debates at the AKP backstage heat up as expectations rise.
But could shuffles in other ministries follow the re-separation of these ministries? How would these shuffles affect the AKP’s relations with the MHP, Saadet Party (Felicity Party), the business groups it leans on and the Islamic cults?
How would them resonate in foreign financial circles from where investment is expected?
And lies another question: How would these shuffles help the AKP rise again as it recently suffered from consecutive blows?