PM Shehbaz in Ankara as Erdogan sworn in for new term as Turkish president

Published June 3, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (R) congratulates Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (L) after he takes oath for a new presidential term in Ankara, Turkey on Saturday. — Screengrab from video via Marriyum Aurangzeb’s Twitter
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (R) congratulates Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (L) after he takes oath for a new presidential term in Ankara, Turkey on Saturday. — Screengrab from video via Marriyum Aurangzeb’s Twitter
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets members of the parliament and guests as he arrives to take his oath after his election win in Ankara, Turkey, June 3, 2023. — Reuters
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets members of the parliament and guests as he arrives to take his oath after his election win in Ankara, Turkey, June 3, 2023. — Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan took the oath of office for a new presidential term on Saturday after winning re-election last weekend, extending his rule into a third decade.

“I, as president, swear upon my honour and integrity before the great Turkish nation and history to safeguard the existence and independence of the state,” Erdogan said during a ceremony at the parliament in Ankara, which was broadcast live.

Among several other world leaders, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also landed in the capital Ankara a day earlier to attend Erdogan’s inauguration in the parliament, which will be followed by a lavish ceremony at his palace.

Erdogan received his mandate from the interim parliament speaker before taking the oath.

Turkey’s longest-serving leader, Erdogan won 52.2 per cent support in a May 28 runoff vote. His election victory defied most opinion polls and came despite a cost-of-living crisis that was seen to have hurt his prospects.

His new five-year mandate allows Erdogan to pursue the increasingly authoritarian policies that have polarised the country, a Nato member, but strengthened its position as a regional military power.

After taking the oath in parliament, a ceremony will be held at the presidential palace attended by high-level officials from 78 countries and international organisations, including PM Shehbaz, Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

Erdogan, 69, became prime minister in 2003 after his AK Party won an election in late 2002 following Turkey’s worst economic crisis since the 1970s.

In 2014, he became the country’s first popularly elected president and was elected again in 2018 after securing new executive powers for the presidency in a 2017 referendum.

The May 14 presidential election and May 28 runoff were pivotal given that the opposition had been confident of ousting Erdogan and reversing many of his policies, including proposing sharp interest rate hikes to counter inflation, running at 44pc in April.

In his post-election victory speech, Erdogan said inflation, which hit a 24-year peak of 85pc last year before easing, was Turkey’s most urgent issue.

Analysts have warned that if current policies continue, the economy is heading for turmoil given depleted foreign reserves, an expanding state-backed protected deposits scheme, and unchecked inflation expectations.

The lira has undergone a series of crashes in recent years and hit new all-time lows in the days after the vote.

PM Shehbaz lands in Ankara

PM Shehbaz landed in Turkiye late Friday night on a two-day visit to attend the inauguration ceremony.

A video shared by the government showed the premier being greeted by officials of the Turkish foreign ministry and Pakistan’s mission in Turkiye. He was accompanied by a delegation comprising Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb and Special Assistant Tariq Fatemi.

According to state broadcaster Radio Pakistan, the PM will also interact with Turkish investors and the business community.

During his visit, Chairperson Limak Holdings Ebru Ozdemir called on Shehbaz to “explore available opportunities in construction infrastructure and energy sector”, Aurangzeb said in a tweet.

Sharing pictures and a video from the exchange, she added that the businesswoman will be coming to Pakistan soon along with a delegation to contribute towards expanding trade and investment between the two countries.

The minister further said Ozdmeir also shared the details of a “unique and inspiring project”, Global Engineer Girls (GEG), which is an international philanthropic initiative to inspire the next generation of female engineers and provide girls and women with education, mentorship and career opportunities.

“The initiative in Pakistan will encourage, educate and enable girls and women to gain experience and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” Aurangzeb said.

In the video shared by her, Shehbaz can be seen congratulating Ozdemir on the “wonderful victory for President Erdogan”, to which the latter responded she was glad about the huge victory. The PML-N also shared a video showing glimpses of the meeting between the two delegations.

Later, she said in another tweet that PM Shehbaz spent his day meeting with “major” Turkish businessmen and industrialists.

“During these meetings, he urged them to take advantage of the fraternal ties between the two countries and the government’s vision to facilitate FDI and encourage joint ventures in energy, solar, construction, infrastructure, transportation, and solid waste management,” Aurangzeb said.

Sharing a list of the businessmen Shehbaz met, she said the meetings were aimed at maximising mutual gains through existing investments and projects in Pakistan and enhacing cooperation in key sectors of the economy through the direct presence of Turkish enterprises via joint ventures with Pakistani counterparts as part of the historic Trade Goods Agreement signed in August 2022.

Prior to leaving for Turkiye, Shehbaz said, “I will convey our warmest greetings to the president on behalf of the government and people of Pakistan on his re-election.

“The fraternal ties between Pakistan and Türkiye are set to deepen further in line with our shared resolve and common destiny,” he added.

Referring to the upcoming 7th meeting of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council in Islamabad, the premier said it will “provide the right avenue to take the momentum of our strategic partnership forward”.

“We have yet to unlock the potential of our multifaceted relationship and efforts are being made in that direction.”

Biting economy

Addressing the country’s economic troubles will be Erdogan’s first priority with inflation running at 43.70pc, partly due to his unorthodox policy of cutting interest rates to stimulate growth.

Erdogan will name his cabinet later on Saturday, and is expected to signal a change in his unorthodox approach to economic policy.

Erdogan was likely to include former economy chief Mehmet Simsek, Reuters reported earlier this week, which would indicate a potential return to greater economic orthodoxy, including eventual interest rate hikes.

Simsek was highly regarded by investors when he served as finance minister and deputy prime minister between 2009 and 2018. A key role for him now could mark a departure from years of sticking to low interest rates despite high inflation, and heavy state control of markets.

“Erdogan’s government looks like it will pursue an orthodox stabilisation programme,” said Alp Erinc Yeldan, professor of economics at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.

“What we see now is that the news about Mehmet Simsek and his team is greeted with enthusiasm by the markets,” he told AFP.

Turkey’s new members of parliament started being sworn in on Friday in the first session after the May 14 election, also attended by Erdogan.

His alliance holds a majority in the 600-seat parliament.

Erdogan’s victory came against a unified opposition coalition led by Kilicdaroglu, whose future as leader of the CHP party remains in doubt following the defeat.

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