Erdogan Takes Oath, Starts 3rd Term 06/03 07:59
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkey's longtime leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, took
the oath of office on Saturday, ushering in his third presidential term that
followed three stints as prime minister.
Erdogan, 69, won a new five-year term in a runoff presidential race last
week that could stretch his 20-year rule in the key NATO country that straddles
Europe and Asia into a quarter-century. The country of 85 million controls
NATO's second-largest army, hosts millions of refugees and played a crucial
role in brokering a deal that allowed the shipment of Ukraine grain, averting a
global food crisis.
Erdogan was sworn in during a session in parliament before an inauguration
ceremony at his sprawling palace complex. Supporters waited outside parliament
despite the heavy rain, covering his car with red carnations as he arrived.
All eyes are on the announcement of his new Cabinet later on Saturday. Its
lineup should indicate whether there will be a continuation of unorthodox
economic policies or a return to more conventional ones amid a cost-of-living
Dozens of foreign dignitaries are traveling to attend the ceremony,
including NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Carl Bildt, a
high-profile former Swedish prime minister. They are expected to press Erdogan
to lift his country's objections to Sweden's membership in the military
alliance -- which requires unanimous approval by all allies.
Turkey accuses Sweden of being too soft on Kurdish militants and other
groups that Turkey considers to be terrorists. NATO wants to bring Sweden into
the alliance by the time allied leaders meet in Lithuania on July 11-12, but
Turkey and Hungary have yet to endorse the bid. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor
Orban will also be attending the ceremony.
According to state-run Anadolu Agency, other leaders in attendance include
Azerbaijan's Ilham Aliyev, Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, South Africa's Cyril
Ramaphosa, Armenia's Nikol Pashinyan, Pakistan's Shahbaz Sharif, and Libya's
Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.
Erdogan was sworn in amid a host of domestic challenges ahead, including a
battered economy, pressure for the repatriation of millions of Syrian refugees
and the need to rebuild after a devastating earthquake in February that killed
50,000 and leveled entire cities in the south of the country.
Turkey is grappling with a cost-of-living crisis fueled by inflation that
peaked at a staggering 85% in October before easing to 44% last month. The
Turkish currency has lost more than 10% of its value against the dollar since
the start of the year.
Critics blame the turmoil on Erdogan's policy of lowering interest rates to
promote growth, which runs contrary to conventional economic thinking that
calls for raising rates to combat inflation.
Unconfirmed media reports say Erdogan plans to reappoint Mehmet Simsek, a
respected former finance minister and deputy prime minister, to the helm of the
economy. The move would signify a return by the country -- which is the world's
19th largest economy according to the World Bank -- to more orthodox economic
In power as prime minister and then as president since 2003, Erdogan is
already Turkey's longest-serving leader. He has solidified his rule through
constitutional changes that transformed Turkey's presidency from a largely
ceremonial role to a powerful office. Critics say his second decade in office
was marred by sharp democratic backsliding including the erosion of
institutions such as the media and judiciary and the jailing of opponents and
Erdogan defeated opposition challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu in a runoff vote
held on May 28, after he narrowly failed to secure an outright victory in a
first round of voting on May 14. Kilicdaroglu had promised to put Turkey on a
more democratic path and improve relations with the West. International
observers deemed the elections to be free but not fair.