ISTANBUL (Reuters) — Turkey's opposition
accused scandal-hit Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday of trying
to rule via a secretive "deep state" after a cabinet reshuffle that
would tighten controls on police already beleaguered by
Among 10 new loyalist ministers Erdogan named late on Wednesday
was Efkan Ala, a former governor of the restive Diyarbakir province
who will now wield the powerful Interior portfolio and oversee
Turkish domestic security.
Ala replaces Muammer Guler, one of three cabinet members who
resigned after their sons were detained in a graft probe that
erupted on December 17. Guler, who like Erdogan had called the case
baseless and a plot, sacked or reassigned dozens of police officers
involved including the chief of the force in Istanbul.
"He (Erdogan) is trying to put together a cabinet that will not show
any opposition to him. In this context, Efkan Ala has a key role,"
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the biggest opposition party CHP,
said in remarks carried by Turkish media.
"Erdogan has a deep state, (his) AK Party has a deep state and Efkan
Ala is one of the elements of that deep state," added Kilicdaroglu,
using a term that for Turks denotes a shadowy power structure
unhindered by democratic checks and balances.
During his three terms in office, the Islamist-rooted Erdogan has
transformed Turkey, cutting back its once-dominant secularist
military and overseeing rapid economic expansion. He weathered
unprecedented anti-government protests that swept major cities in
But his response to the corruption case drew an EU call for the
independence of Turkey's judiciary to be safeguarded. It has rattled
stocks and the lira, with the currency falling to a historic low of
2.1035 against the dollar on Thursday before recovering a little.
"The dismissal of half an entire cabinet is worrying enough. The
corruption probe is escalating by the day, causing a further
deterioration in market sentiment towards Turkey," said Nicholas
Spiro, head of Spiro Sovereign Strategy.
At an Interior Ministry handover ceremony, Ala said Turkey might
have been targeted by neighbors jealous of its successes.
"When these developments are sustainable, attacks from various
centers on the political stability of the country is not
unexpected," he said, without elaborating.
For Erdogan, the scandal is potent and personal.
It lays bare his rivalry with Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Turkish
cleric whose Hizmet (Service) movement claims at least a million
faithful including senior police officers and judges.
Another of the three cabinet members who quit on Wednesday over
their sons' detention, Environment Minister Erdogan Bayraktar, broke
ranks by urging the premier to follow suit.
The Turkish leader, in power for 11 years and facing local elections
in March and a national ballot in 2015, was unmoved. Vowing no
tolerance for corruption, he said on Wednesday the graft
investigation had been tainted by foreign interests.
"It would not be incorrect to say that, with this (Ala) appointment,
Erdogan has personally taken the reins of domestic affairs," Sedat
Ergin, a columnist with the mass-circulation newspaper Hurriyet,
told CNN Turk television.
Unlike the rest of the 20-member cabinet, Ala is not a lawmaker and
thus does not answer directly to a constituency.
In his previous post as undersecretary of the prime ministry,
political sources told Reuters, he urged a crackdown on
demonstrators who flooded the streets over the summer in protest at
what they see as Erdogan's authoritarianism.
"Who would you trust other than your undersecretary, with whom you
have been working closely for years?" said one government source,
who characterized the new ministers as "surprise" picks conveying
Erdogan's desire for fresh faces.
Akin Unver, assistant professor of international relations at
Istanbul's Kadir Has University, said Ala showed restraint as
governor of Diyarbakir, which is populated predominantly by ethnic
Kurds whose ties with Ankara have often been troubled.
"He was actually someone who warned against the excessive use of
police force," Unver said. "My worry is that anywhere in the world,
when you get closer to power, you can malfunction."
(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun, Gulsen Solaker and Seda
Sezer; writing by Dan Williams; editing by Andrew Roche)