President Erdogan To Chair Turkey Cabinet For First Time

bakanlar-kurulu636The Turkish president has the right under the constitution to chair cabinet meetings, which are usually overseen by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

However Erdogan’s two predecessors in the presidential job — Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Abdullah Gul — performed largely ceremonial roles and never chaired a government meeting.

The last president to do so was Suleyman Demirel, who served as head of state from 1993-2000. Erdogan will just be the sixth Turkish president in the history of the modern republic founded in 1923 to chair a cabinet meeting.

The August elections were the first time a Turkish president has been directly elected by the people and Erdogan insisted he now has a popular mandate to be an active and powerful leader.

In recent years, Turkish presidents have performed a largely ceremonial and overseeing role, with power resting with the prime minister and parliament.

But in barely half a year in office, Erdogan has transformed the role, making clear that the president is Turkey’s number one on all the major issues, including foreign policy.

However the opposition had accused Erdogan of acting increasingly like an autocrat, building up his own “shadow cabinet” in the presidency with powers to rival those of ministers.

Monday’s meeting comes at the start of a key year for Turkey which will in June vote in legislative elections where the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is seeking a big majority to write a new constitution that will enshrine Erdogan’s powers as president.

Critics say that civil and media freedoms have eroded further in Turkey during Erdogan’s half year as president, which has been marked by an all-out-offensive against supporters of his arch foe, the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.