After winning Sunday’s presidential election run-off, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, „Turkey only won,” as he addressed jubilant supporters. Yet while the veteran president’s loyalists celebrate, millions of other Turks hang their heads in dismay and agonize over what five years of the strongman’s rule has meant for their polarized country. They are right to be concerned. Even Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for two decades, must realize that he has no time to bask in his success if his nation is to avoid plunging deeper into economic crisis.
The elections took place against a backdrop of a severe cost-of-living crisis, with Turkey’s currency trading at record lows and inflation at 44 percent. The crisis is largely the result of Erdogan’s pursuit of unorthodox economic policies: He has spoken out against steep interest rate hikes when inflation soars and moderates the central bank’s independence.
Pressure on the state’s dwindling resources will be compounded by blatant electoral concessions, including changing the retirement age norms and increasing the salaries of civil servants. Its foreign currency and gold reserves fell by $17bn in the six weeks to the first round of voting on May 14, according to Financial Times calculations of official data. The state is grappling with a near-record current account deficit.
Yet Erdogan’s policies, along with his penchant for picking fights with Western allies and his slide toward authoritarianism, have long since spooked foreign investors who could have provided much-needed hard currency. It is not sustainable. The government lacks the resources to defend the lira.
Erdogan should put aside his personal quirks, return to conventional monetary policy and take serious steps to restore credibility to state institutions. Only then will Ankara have a chance to lure back wary investors. But if what Erdogan is building is true, the West can look forward to another era of unpredictable and testy relations with the NATO member.
There are also concerns about what Erdogan’s victory will mean for the country’s democracy. Since first leading his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to power 21 years ago, he has consolidated power and centralized decision-making to an unprecedented degree, keeping one man close to power. He replaced Turkey’s parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful executive president in a constitutional referendum in 2017. Mainstream media has largely come under government control. Opposition politicians, journalists, academics and businessmen are languishing in jails.
The list of those jailed includes Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the Kurdish-dominated People’s Democratic Party (HDP). The mayor and senior figure in the Republican People’s Party (CHP) is the main opposition Republican Party (CHP) after he was convicted in December of insulting election officials.
Many others fear for their civil rights. During the campaign, Erdogan, who loved ultranationalists, repeatedly attacked his opponent Kemal Kilidaroglu for his support of LGBT rights and terrorists, a thinly veiled reference to his outreach to Kurdish voters.
The president’s supporters will point to another victory at the ballot box as further proof of Erdogan’s enduring popularity. But the fact that neither he nor Kilidaroglu received more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, forcing him into a run-off, underscores the political divide between those who love or hate the separatist leader. Constitutionally, this should be Erdogan’s final term. If that’s true, he’d be wise to consider the legacy he wants to leave behind. But whatever course he charts, Turkey risks being worrisomely drowned in stormy waters.
„Oddany rozwiązywacz problemów. Przyjazny hipsterom praktykant bekonu. Miłośnik kawy. Nieuleczalny introwertyk. Student.