Turkish President Erdoğan issues edict-like decrees reshaping institutions

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued new edict-like presidential decrees on Sunday reshaping key political, military and bureaucratic institutions as part of a transformation to a powerful executive presidency triggered by last month’s election.

In total, President Erdoğan published seven decrees in the country’s Official Gazette affecting many state institutions, including the secretariat of the National Security Council (MGK), the Undersecretariat for the Defence Industry and the State Audit Institution (DDK). The changes coincide with the second anniversary of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Under the decree, the Turkish General Staff will be fall under the jurisdiction of the Defense Ministry. On July 9 Erdoğan appointed Hulusi Akar, then-chief of General Staff, defense minister under the new presidential system.

President Erdoğan was sworn in last Monday under the new system and now holds sweeping powers, allowing him to issue decrees on executive matters and appoint and remove senior civil servants.

The new decree also restructured Turkey’s Supreme Military Council (YAŞ), which decides appointments in the military, and the National Security Council (MGK), the top security body that plays an advisory role.

The military council will meet at least once a year as convened by Turkey’s vice president, who is appointed by the president. The president will convene the council when necessary, said the decree.

President Erdoğan has also appointed his son-in-law and Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak as a member of Turkey’s Supreme Military Council with a new presidential decree. Erdoğan on July 9 appointed former Energy Minister Albrayrak as the treasury and finance minister in a move that caused disappointment among international and domestic investors.

Under the new decree, the members of YAŞ will include Turkey’s vice president or vice presidents, its treasury and finance minister and its education minister.

The MGK will meet once every two months as summoned by the president, under the decree, and if the president is unable to attend, he or she will be represented by the vice president.

The July 15 decree also appointed rectors supported by Erdoğan to six universities. Also under the new decree, three bodies, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA), the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB) and the Foundations Directorate General, will fall under the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

The Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD) now falls under the Interior Ministry, according to the decree.

Erdoğan has said the powerful executive presidency is vital to making the government more efficient, drive economic growth and ensure security. Critics decry what they say is increasing authoritarianism and a push toward one-man rule.

A state of emergency was imposed after the putsch on July 15, 2016 and is set to expire this week. Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ultra-nationalist ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) plan to introduce security regulations to ensure the “fight against terrorism” will continue after emergency rule ends, two sources told Reuters.

Last month’s elections marked Turkey’s transition to an executive presidential system of governance, doing away with the position of prime minister, among other changes. The changes had been ratified in an April 2017 constitutional referendum. President Erdoğan was re-elected on June 24 after receiving 52 percent of the vote in the first round.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Previously, on December 13, 2017, The Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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