By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
ISTANBUL/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who critics have condemned for his perceived authoritarian style, has reappointed an internationally respected former banker as finance minister to help tackle a massive economic crisis.
The move came after Erdoğan was sworn in for the third time as president after he won a new five-year term in a runoff to stretch his 20-year rule in this key NATO military alliance nation.
Erdoğan said he wanted to reappoint Mehmet Simsek – a former finance minister and deputy prime minister – to the helm of the economy.
Simsek, a former London-based Merrill Lynch banker, returns to the Cabinet as treasury and finance minister after a five-year break from politics, observers noted.
His appointment comes as Turkey grapples with a cost-of-living crisis fueled by inflation that peaked at a staggering 85 percent in October before easing to 44 percent last month.
The Turkish currency has lost more than 10 percent of its value against the dollar since the start of the year.
Adding to the difficulties was a massive recent earthquake that killed an estimated 50,000 people in Turkey and neighboring Syria.
“Critics blame the turmoil on Erdogan’s policy of lowering interest rates to promote growth, which runs contrary to conventional economic thinking that rates should rise to combat inflation,” The Washington Post newspaper commented.
Simsek’s appointment indicates that Erdogan may abandon policies that many economists have branded as “unorthodox.”
Erdogan chose as his foreign minister Hakan Fidan, who has headed Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency, MIT, since 2010.
A former soldier with a doctorate in international relations, Fidan replaces Mevlut Cavusoglu, who had held the post since 2014.
Yet the opposition has argued that Erdoğan, 69, won in an “unfair ballot.”
Minority Christians facing difficulties for their faith in several parts of the Muslim-majority country may be forgiven for expecting little improvement under Erdoğan, whose AK Party is rooted in conservative Islam.
“Nationalism and Islam are intrinsically linked, and anyone who is not a Muslim, particularly someone who openly lives out a different faith, is considered a disloyal Turk. Christians are therefore not regarded as full members of Turkish society,” advocacy group Open Doors noted.
Under Erdogan, they “have limited access to state employment and experience discrimination in private employment, especially where employers have ties to the government. Since religious affiliation is still recorded on identity cards (nowadays via electronic chip), it is easy to discriminate against Christian job applicants,” Open Doors added.
Yet in his acceptance speech, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged a new, inclusive constitution” and economic improvements.
He also seeks to strengthen Turkey’s diplomatic hand around the world. “We promise to work with all our power to protect the Turkish Republic’s glory, boost its reputation in the world,” Erdogan said during a ceremony at his presidential palace in Ankara.
It was attended by representatives from nearly 80 countries and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Among those attending was also Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
While his government supports persecuted Christians in several countries, he praised the re-election of Erdoğan as the best way to prevent “one, two or three million migrants arriving at Hungary’s border by the end of summer.”
The fiercely anti-migration Orbán has close ties with Erdoğan, who signed a multi-billion dollar deal with the European Union to prevent millions of Syrian refugees from entering the EU. Turkey currently hosts about 3.7 million registered refugees, according to United Nations estimates.