ANKARA, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- The surprise cabinet reshuffle in Turkey was aimed to take some pressure of the government and to prepare for local and presidential elections, both due in 2014.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sacked four ministers on Thursday evening, replacing them with less controversial figures.
"The changes are limited. But looking at the portfolios of these ministries, which cover interior, health, education and culture, these changes are fundamental," Ankara-based political analyst Faruk Mercan told Xinhua.
"He [Prime Minister] seemed to have preferred names he has known for a long time," Mercan noted.
Idris Gursoy, another analyst, told Xinhua that Erdogan reshuffled the cabinet to reflect his election campaign strategy. "I think he formed a new cabinet to project positive image of his ruling party to voters and let the heavy baggage go away with departing ministers," Gursoy said.
Former Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler replaced Idris Naim Sahin as interior minister, a move seen as concession to Kurds during a time when Turkish government engaged in a new round of peace negotiations with the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK). Sahin, hawkish on handling Kurdish issue, has drawn much resentment from Kurdish electorate.
"It is obvious that this cabinet change was for the talks with the PKK and for the sake of the Kurdish initiative," said Sefkat Cetin, deputy chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Guler, long-time politician and former Istanbul governor, was heading the Interior Commission in Turkish Parliament. As a man close to the prime minister, Guler comes from Mardin, a southeastern province largely populated by Kurds. Presumably, Guler has accumulated enough experience to tackle the Kurdish issue over the years.
Nabi Avci, head of the parliamentary Education Commission, was named as new education minister, replacing Omer Dincer who had angered teachers' community with fast-paced reforms. Avci, long- time advisor to Erdogan and election campaign manager for the party, is seen as a compromise-seeking politician and expected to get along with teachers.
According to Turkish expert Mumtazer Turkone, Avci "has a wide perspective and strong background" and is "productive, constructive."
Dincer's departure was welcomed by most teachers and educators in the country. Osman Bahce, head of the Active Educators' Union, on Friday blamed Dincer for breaking the hearts of 850,000 teachers and expressed hopes that the new education minister would not repeat the same mistakes the former one has made.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Chairman Omer Celik, a long-time close advisor to Erdogan, was appointed as new minister of tourism and culture. Gunay, from leftist background in the conservative ruling government, may be Erdogan's new candidate for the office of Izmir mayor, a position normally won by the main opposition party.
The AKP deputy Mehmet Muezzinoglu, high schoolmate of Erdogan, replaced Recep Akdag as health minister. Although the ruling party drew much support from the health sector in the past three national elections, Akdag has become the target of criticism in recent years from doctors, nurses and medical industry.