Turkey’s Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan has been removed from his post by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to a decree published on the Official Gazette early on March 28.
The decree said that Turhan was replaced by Adil Karaismailoğlu. It did not provide a reason for the change or any further details.
Turhan, a former head of Turkey’s Railroads Directorate and chief adviser to the president, was appointed minister by Erdoğan in July 2018.
Several social media users alleged that Turhan was removed from duty over criticism of the timing of a recently held tender related to the controversial Kanal Istanbul project.
The Transport Ministry is responsible from overseeing the project, which seeks to build a huge canal on the edge of Istanbul.
The first tender for the project was held on March 26, leading to a widespread criticism among the public, with many people saying that the government should be instead preoccupied with protecting the health of the citizens amid the coronavirus outbreak.
A photo showing six Transport Ministry officials wearing medical masks and gloves while holding the tender has sparked disbelief on social media, with several people saying that the government was taking advantage of the current climate of fear due to the virus.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Özgür Özel claimed on March 28 that the reason why Turhan was dismissed from duty was probably because the government was not pleased about which firm won the bid and got the contract.
“Friends, in this current system, a minister is not dismissed in this country at 2 a.m. at night for not having postponed Kanal Istanbul tender. Probably, there has been a mistake (!) regarding which firm won the bid. And in this system, they do not leave the punishment of this to the morning,” Özel wrote on Twitter.