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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sacked Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk and Ruhsar Pekçan, the two female ministers of his government, on Wednesday April 21.

Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk lost the Ministry of Family and Labor, which was split in two. She was replaced by Derya Yanik, an official of the presidential party of Justice and Development (AKP) in Istanbul, who, in charge of the family, is now the only female minister in the cabinet. As head of the labor ministry, the president appointed Vedat Bilgin, one of his former advisers.

Ruhsar Pekçan, the Minister of Commerce, was removed from her post to be replaced by Mehmet Mus, an AKP MP. The presidential decree does not specify the reason for his replacement but Pekçan had been in the spotlight for several days, accused by various media of nepotism.

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It all started with the publication of articles on the website OdaTV, accusing the minister of having granted advantageous contracts to companies owned by her and her husband. In question, the purchase, for his ministry, of disinfectant products offered for sale by companies belonging to the couple. To this end, several contracts with a total value of 9 million Turkish liras, or more than 900,000 euros, have been signed.

Everything has been done “In accordance with the rules”, said the minister in a statement released before her dismissal, in which she justifies her purchase by the ” Lower price “ of disinfectant produced by family businesses, compared to prices offered by the competition.

Critical campaign

In this period of economic famine and popular discontent, these accusations have been repeated over and over by the media and on social networks. Unexpected ousting of Mme Pekçan suggests that the president, whose popularity is waning in the polls, does not want to risk further criticism from the opposition over his poor management of the economy.

“The economy is my specialty”, he said in December 2020, a month after accepting the resignation of his son-in-law, the unpopular Minister of the Treasury and the Economy, Berat Albayrak, who returned his apron as the Turkish lira collapsed against to the dollar. To defend the currency, Berat Albayrak encouraged the use by the Central Bank of a good part of its foreign currency reserves, without succeeding in stemming its fall.

A choice denounced by the Republican People’s Party (CHP, opposition) which has been leading a campaign critical of its management for several days, with the slogan “Where did the 128 billion go?” dollars, an amount which, according to the CHP, evaporated from the coffers of the Central Bank between 2019 and 2020 for the benefit of companies close to power.

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