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Turkish PM unveils plans to set up new ministries

09 June 2011 [10:00] - TODAY.AZ
The prime minister on Wednesday unveiled plans for a new post-election government structure that is being seen as a step toward creating a presidential system for the country.

The plans announced by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan include setting up new ministries, eliminating eight current ones and merging some others. The restructuring would also create a new position of deputy minister for each ministry, an appointee position that could be filled by experts from the private sector.

The move to create a deputy minister position "could be a step toward the presidential system as is the case in the United States because ministers there have deputies," former Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Türk said.

Erdoğan has on various occasions suggested the idea of a presidential system as something that might be implemented following the June 12 general election.

According to Türk, the deputy-minister model was implemented in Turkey in the 1930s via a constitutional change but was abolished one year later for causing an authority conflict.

"In the United States the ministers have deputies, who are mostly technocrats. If the deputy minister is supposed to be a technocrat in this plan, why they are supposed to come and go with the governments? If so, this means they will be ‘political’ figures. If technocrats are needed, they could be hired as an adviser from other sectors," constitutional law expert Ekrem Ali Akartürk said.

An academic at Yeditepe University who has studied the presidential system, Akartürk said he considered Erdoğan’s move a second attempt to adopt a U.S.-style presidential system. The first step in this process, he said, was the constitutional reform in Turkey in 2007 that paved the way for the election of the president by public vote, as is the case in the United States.

Eight ministries to be abolished

If his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is returned to power in the June polls, Erdoğan said, the administration will have six new ministries, while the total number of ministries will be lowered from 27 to 25.

The prime minister said eight current state ministries will be abolished. The new ministries will be the Ministry of Family and Social Policies, the Ministry of European Union, the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Customs and Trade and the Ministry of Development. The Ministry of European Union will coordinate the affairs for Turkey’s EU bid.

Currently these areas fall under the responsibility of state ministers in Ankara; the new ministries will also have offices around the country.

"We will also create a deputy minister position" that will rank between the minister and the undersecretary, Erdoğan said, speaking at his party’s headquarters.

The new Cabinet will include 20 ministers plus the prime minister and four deputy prime ministers. Each of the 20 ministers will be assigned deputies.

The deputy ministers will not be parliamentary deputies, but will be appointed to their positions with the new government and will leave their posts if it is voted out of power. The deputy ministers will be experts in their sectors and will be selected for their ability to make the ministries operate faster and more efficiently, Erdoğan said. "It will be possible to bring them in from the private sector," he added.

Each deputy minister will be appointed with the approval of the respective minister, the prime minister and the president. The appointees will not have to have university degrees, "and can even be elementary school graduates," Erdoğan said, pointing to important businesspeople such as Vehbi Koç as examples.

"They will work as a political undersecretary, and the current undersecretaries will carry out the administrative functions," the prime minister said.

Some ministries will be renamed or merged under the proposed restructuring. The Ministry of Industry and Trade will become the Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology, while the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs will be changed to the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Livestock. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry will meanwhile merge with the Ministry of Public Affairs and Settlement to become the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and City Planning.

In the past, Erdoğan said, the Cabinet did not convene for months, and there was a lack of communication between the ministries. "For example, there are several ministries in charge of the economy, and they don’t get a chance to get together and discuss matters, which caused the crisis with the privatization," he said.

Asked by a journalist if the status of the General Staff, which operates under the Prime Ministry, would be affected by the restructuring, Erdoğan said such a change was not currently on the agenda.

/Hurriyet Daily News/

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