Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to carry out a Cabinet reshuffle to improve the tarnished image of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) by the end of March, when the AKP’s 7th Ordinary Grand Congress is planned to take place, Turkish media reported on Wednesday.
The AKP’s image has been battered due to its poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the deterioration of the country’s economy as the lira’s decline in value, nearly 30 percent in 2020, has led to higher inflation via imports priced in hard currencies.
Plans for the AKP congress, which were launched in February 2020 and had to be put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, are expected to come to fruition with the grand congress, where Erdoğan is expected to name his party’s 50-seat Central Decision and Executive Board (MKYK).
According to local media, a Cabinet shakeup could take place before the 7th Ordinary Grand Congress in order to boost the ruling AKP’s image in the eyes of the public, leading to questions of possible new Cabinet members.
Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli, Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan, Minister of Family, Labor and Social Security Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk and Minister of Culture and Tourism Mehmet Nuri Ersoy are reportedly among members of the Cabinet who could be replaced.
There is speculation that Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who has become the face of the AKP’s harsh policies, will be transferred to a less visible position for causing the people to question the sincerity of some of AKP’s more moderate policies.
Binali Yıldırım, who formerly served as prime minister, AKP chairman and minister of transport, maritime affairs and communication, could either become vice president or deputy chairman of the AKP, local media said.
Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Turkey’s former finance minister Berat Albayrak, who unexpectedly announced his resignation in November 2020, is also expected to rejoin Erdoğan’s team.
With the resignation of Albayrak on Nov. 8, the claims of a broader Cabinet change started to circulate in both mainstream and social media. However, the claims were dismissed when Erdoğan accepted Albayrak’s resignation on Nov. 9 and appointed Lütfi Elvan as his successor.
Sözcü daily columnist Deniz Zeyrek said Albayrak was widely speculated to be named AKP deputy chairman, energy minister or foreign affairs minister within a month.
According to Turkish media reports, the majority of speculation about changes in the Cabinet as well as in the MKYK holds that they will fail to return the ruling AKP to its “good old days.”