Turkey’s Erdogan begins new term with purge of 18,600 civil servants

Controversial leader acquires more power under new executive presidential system

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
(Image credit: ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Recep Tayyip Erdogan takes office today as Turkey’s executive president with vastly expanded powers as more than 18,600 people are purged from government jobs.

Erdogan will take his oath in the Turkish parliament, followed by a lavish ceremony at his nearby palace in Ankara. His inauguration officially ushers in a new executive presidency, which replaces a parliamentary system in which the prime minister and government held most power, reports Reuters.

The post of prime minister will be scrapped and the president will have the power to choose his own cabinet, chair its meetings, form and regulate ministries and remove civil servants, all without parliamentary approval.

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The dismissed state employees include 9,000 police personnel and more than 6,000 officers from the country’s armed services. Three newspapers, one TV channel and 12 associations have also been shut down, amid claims that they posed a security risk to the state, reports Bloomberg.

The government has been issuing decrees, bypassing parliament, since a state of emergency was imposed in the wake of an attempted military coup in July 2016. Erdogan promised to lift the state of emergency rule following last month’s election, in which he was re-elected with 53% of the vote.

However, his new powers enable him to “issue decrees with the force of law” and he “can still declare a similar state of emergency giving authorities powers to restrict basic rights and freedoms when deemed necessary”, says Bloomberg.

“The recent purge is a further consolidation of the grip on power that Erdogan has been working on particularly since the attempted coup,” said Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of London-based political risk consultants Cornerstone Global Associates. “The purge is surprising in its magnitude and many will accuse Erdogan of going after anyone who opposes him.”

The government says that the sacked civil servants are followers of US-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom it accuses of masterminding the coup. He denies the charge.

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