Erdogan son-in-law wins key post in new Turkey cabinet

Dilay Gundogan
1 / 3

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu speaks in Ankara on November 24, 2015 after announcing a new cabinet

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu speaks in Ankara on November 24, 2015 after announcing a new cabinet (AFP Photo/Adem Altan)

Istanbul (AFP) - Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday unveiled a new cabinet stacked with loyal allies of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, including the strongman's own son-in-law as energy minister.

The announcement came on the same day Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian war plane on the Syrian border, creating a new security challenge for the government.

Ankara is also confronting a renewed conflict with Kurdish rebels as well as a wave of bloody attacks blamed on Islamic State jihadists.

Davutoglu said the new government would focus on achieving structural reforms over the next four years, with the country now facing a faltering economy.

The new cabinet was unveiled just over three weeks since the November 1 election where the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) co-founded by Erdogan regained the majority it had unexpectedly lost in a June vote.

Interest had focused on whether Erdogan's son-in-law Berat Albayrak would be in the cabinet after unconfirmed reports that Davutoglu was opposed to his presence in the government.

Davutoglu named Albayrak as energy minister but he did not get the key economic post some had tipped him for, a prospect that had unnerved markets.

Another longstanding Erdogan ally, Binali Yildirim, was named transport minister.

But there was no space in the cabinet for former deputy premier Ali Babacan, a trusted figure in global financial markets and seen as a champion of reform.

Former finance minister Mehmet Simsek, who also enjoys the respect of the markets, was appointed deputy prime minister and is expected to take over Babacan's role.

- Several familiar faces -

Albayrak was until late 2013 the chief executive of the Calik Holding conglomerate but has more recently been writing economic commentaries in pro-government newspapers.

Erdogan is considered very close to the Albayrak family, in particular Berat Albayrak's father Sadik.

Several world leaders attended Berat Albayrak's marriage to the president's elder daughter Esra Erdogan in July 2004.

The new cabinet has several familiar faces from the government that was in place until the June vote.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, a figure seen as reassuring for the United States and the European Union, returned to his former post as foreign minister, while Efkan Ala also returned to the cabinet as interior minister.

Two women ministers will be serving in the new cabinet: family and social policies minister Sema Ramazanoglu and environment minister Fatma Guldemet Sari.

- 'Under Erdogan's control' -

The November result was a huge personal victory for Erdogan, who may now be able to secure enough support for his controversial ambitions to expand his role into a powerful US-style executive presidency.

However the AKP still does not command the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution without support from other parties or a popular referendum.

Analysts say the new government is unlikely to achieve the much-needed reforms to help reach Erdogan's target to make Turkey one of the world's top 10 economies by 2023.

"I don't think these old names can instill vigor into existing policies and help Turkey achieve its 2023 goals," said Ersin Kalaycioglu, professor of political science at Sabanci University.

Fuat Keyman, another professor at Sabanci, said Erdogan is likely to continue to pull the strings in the AKP, creating a power struggle with Davutoglu.

"The real test case will be when they seriously start talking about the new constitution and how the powers are shared," he said.

"What will be the prime minister's power? What will be the checks and balances?"

Dogu Ergil from Fatih University said: "The government is under the president's control. There is no one in this cabinet who would not have Mr Erdogan's personal approval."