Erdogan Taps Markets Veteran Simsek as Turkey’s Finance Minister

(Bloomberg) -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan named Mehmet Simsek as treasury and finance minister, the most prominent appointment in a renewed cabinet that will face the challenge of restoring investor confidence after elections.

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In an announcement on Saturday, the country’s longest-serving leader overhauled much of his cabinet, just hours after being sworn in as president to start a term that extends his power into a third decade.

The choice of Simsek hands over the reins of the economy to an advocate of conventional policies and likely signals a shift from the Turkish leader’s unorthodox measures that have been blamed for galloping inflation and an exodus of foreign money.

Bloomberg News had reported the appointment on Friday.

In his first remarks following the appointment, Simsek hinted at a return to conventional policies. “Turkey does not have any choice left other than returning to rational policy making,” he said at the handover ceremony in Ankara. “Transparency, predictability, consistency and compatibility with international norms will be the core principles.”

In another key selection, Erdogan named the country’s spy chief Hakan Fidan as foreign minister to oversee a nascent diplomatic thaw with the Arab world and take charge of Turkey’s outreach to NATO allies, including the US and neighboring Greece.

New Lineup

Erdogan won 52.2% in a runoff vote last week to secure another five-year term. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was among dignitaries who attended Saturday’s inauguration ceremony in Ankara, as was Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

In unveiling his new lineup, Erdogan is looking to turn the page on a cost-of-living crisis as the lira sinks to record lows and investors await clarity on the path forward for the $900 billion economy. The cabinet — slated to convene in a meeting with Erdogan on Tuesday — is expected to normalize economic and foreign policies while focusing on trying to wrest some of the country’s biggest cities from the opposition in local elections next March.

Simsek, 56, is a former Merrill Lynch strategist who worked as both a finance minister and deputy prime minister in past Erdogan cabinets. His role will be crucial for Erdogan to achieve the goal of restoring control over Istanbul and Ankara, ambitions that hinge on stabilizing the lira and inflation after years of unorthodox moves prioritized economic growth above all else.

On the diplomatic front, the government in Ankara has also come under pressure from Washington to move faster to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO before potentially receiving US congressional support for Turkey’s purchase of American-made F-16 fighter jets.

Erdogan replaced 15 of his 17-member cabinet, with only the tourism and health ministers retaining their posts. Yasar Guler has been named the new defense minister, while Cevdet Yilmaz will be the vice president.

--With assistance from Beril Akman and Ugur Yilmaz.

(Updates with Simsek’s opening remarks in fifth and sixth paragraphs)

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