Turkey changes justice, defense ministers in cabinet shuffle

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's prime minister announced a cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, replacing or swapping 11 ministers in the 26-member council of ministers, including the ministers for justice and defense.

The announcement came months after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regained the leadership of Turkey's ruling party following a narrow win in a referendum ushering in a series of constitutional changes. Erdogan had complained of a "fatigue" within the ruling party, speaking of a need for rejuvenation.

Binali Yildirim named legislator Abdulhamit Gul as the new justice minister and former deputy prime minister Nurettin Canikli as the defense minister. They replace former minister for justice Bekir Bozdag and for defense Fikri Isik, who were both appointed deputy prime ministers. In all, four out of Turkey's five deputy prime ministers were replaced.

Bozdag had largely overseen a major government crackdown following last year's failed military coup that Turkey has blamed on U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. More than 50,000 people suspected of links to the coup or to Gulen have been arrested.

The key ministries for the economy, finance, foreign affairs, the interior and European Union affairs remained unchanged. Yildirim appointed Julide Sarieroglu as the minister for labor and social security, raising the number of women in the Council of Ministers to two.

Yildirim made the announcement following a previously unannounced meeting with Erdogan and described the reshuffle as a "change of blood."

"I wish my new colleagues success and hope that our (new) Council of Ministers is beneficial to the country," Yildirim said.

The referendum approved a series of constitutional changes abolishing the office of the prime minister and concentrating much of the executive powers in the hands of the president.

While most of the changes will come into effect after the next general elections in 2019, one amendment came into effect immediately — scrapping laws that require the head of the state to sever ties with political parties. Erdogan was re-elected chairman of the ruling party in an extraordinary congress on May 21.

The cabinet reshuffle is seen as a major step toward his cementing his authority and putting his mark on the government ahead of the 2019 elections.

Erdogan co-founded the Justice and Development Party in 2001 and led it for more than a decade until he was elected president in 2014.

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