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With Swift Decrees, Erdogan Restructures Entire State Apparatus

In his first week after taking oath as president of Turkey in the new presidential system, Erdogan wasted no time in launching a sweeping project to restructure entire state apparatus with swift decrees.

The decrees envisage dismantling of institutions, agencies and councils operating under relevant ministries, and introducing new ones to make the executive branch more effective and fast.

The number of ministries was reduced to 16, and their authorities and working areas have been redefined in the new system. Majority of councils that previously work under the authority of different ministries are now directly linked with the presidential office.

Those official departments include as diverse as State Theaters (DT) and Bogazici Zoning Council, which regulates and issues permits for construction projects in Bosporus region in Istanbul.

From now on, President Erdogan will be the only authority with final say over matters of art and culture as well as economic ones that normally concern a local council in a specific city.

On Friday, Erdogan chaired his first cabinet meeting at the historical building of Turkey’s First Parliament, Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM), which steered Turkey’s liberation war between 1920 and 1923 against occupying forces in Anatolia after the First World War. The first republic was announced there.  It also ended there on Friday, opponents believe, as Turkey’s parliamentary system of governance has been consigned to history.

On Friday, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim became new Parliament speaker in a parliamentary vote.

Erdogan’s appointment of his son-in-law Berat Albayrak on Monday sent the Turkish lira into record lows against the U.S. dollar and other foreign currencies after markets displayed a negative reaction to the news.

The cabinet, according to critics, resembles a family cooperation as Erdogan showed no scruples in picking new ministers from the roster of his close associates, crony businessmen and long-time family friends.

The End of Republic As We Know It

The second term of President Erdogan heralded a new era, prompting commentators and observers of Turkey to declare the end of Turkish Republic as we know it. Erdogan’s penchant for consolidation of more power at his hands chips away the cardinal element of democracy — the separation of powers.

“Turkey as we have known her no longer exists, this is a different country, as I have written in June 2016: “Reversing L. P. Hartley’s by now near-proverbial 1953 phrase, Turkey specialists, historians, and commentators alike are now in a position where they can safely remark that the present is “a different country,” that they really “do things differently there“…  And some would argue that the country and nation state founded by Mustafa Kemal in 1923 now appears to be on the brink of disappearing as a result of the momentous changes introduced by the political movement founded by Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the outset of the 21st century… and as a result of the Coup-that-was-no-Coup the following month, these changes have now been set in stone,” Dr. Can Erimtan, a historian, writer, and geopolitical analyst no longer residing in Istanbul, told Globe Post Turkey.

Erimtan minced no words when he equally painted a bleak picture of Turkey’s fragmented opposition. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) descended into a leadership struggle after the debacle in the June 24 elections.       

“As such, talking about intraparty struggles in Turkey’s opposition is akin to taking a selfie while the Titanic is sinking, as a contemporary version of the well-known phrase “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” Erimtan said.

Erdogan won the presidential elections on June 24 with more than 52 percent of the votes against his main contender Muharrem Ince from CHP. What set the latest vote different from the previous ones was the nature of the new political system as the country approved a shift to the executive presidency in a referendum on April 16, 2017.

The election consolidated a rightward drift in Turkey’s political domain after an electoral alliance between President Erdogan Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The AKP lost significant votes in parliamentary elections and fell short of 300 seats to have a single-party majority. It won 295 seats and became dependent on MHP whose support in both presidential and parliamentary elections proved to be decisive in cruising Erdogan to victory.

“The MHP is now in the position of kingmaker but as the economy falters towards crisis there is no guarantee that the parliamentary alliance with the AKP – or Erdogan’s personal popularity- will hold,” said Simon P. Watmough, a research associate at European University Institute.

According to him, the elections were more or less free (though hardly fair) and reflect the fact that the president still commands a commanding following across Turkey. But as the economy begins to collapse in the next twelve months, Watmough told Globe Post Turkey with a caveat, that he will come under tremendous pressure and he will have fewer resources at his disposal to pay off allies and distribute spoils.

Turkey remains a very poor quality democracy but is destined for real political and economic crisis in the coming years, he said, casting a future fraught with uncertainties and challenges. 

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