News / Middle East

Erdogan's Presidential Plans Linked to Turkey's Economic Fortunes

A scrap collector pulls her trolley in front of a Turkish bank in Istanbul, Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Turkey's stock market recovered slightly after plummeting amid nationwide unrest. On Monday the Borsa Istanbul 100 Index closed down 10.5 percentA scrap collector pulls her trolley in front of a Turkish bank in Istanbul, Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Turkey's stock market recovered slightly after plummeting amid nationwide unrest. On Monday the Borsa Istanbul 100 Index closed down 10.5 percent
x
A scrap collector pulls her trolley in front of a Turkish bank in Istanbul, Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Turkey's stock market recovered slightly after plummeting amid nationwide unrest. On Monday the Borsa Istanbul 100 Index closed down 10.5 percent
A scrap collector pulls her trolley in front of a Turkish bank in Istanbul, Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Turkey's stock market recovered slightly after plummeting amid nationwide unrest. On Monday the Borsa Istanbul 100 Index closed down 10.5 percent
David Arnold
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s handling of recent anti-government demonstrations and his public quarrel with the country’s banks and business leaders could delay needed economic reforms until after next year’s presidential elections and possibly a year after that, political analysts say.
 
The analysts also say those two factors could affect Erdogan’s plans to run for president in those elections.
 
When the prime minister returned from talks in North Africa in late June, he was welcomed by massive demonstrations protesting government plans to convert Istanbul's Gezi Park into a sort of monument to the old Ottoman Empire. In a nation that has looked to the secular West instead of the Islamic Middle East for much of the past 90 years, Erdogan's park conversion plan was predictably provocative.
 
But instead of addressing the Gezi Park issue directly, Erdogan ordered police to crack down on the demonstrators and decided instead to complain about the nation’s economic problems.  The banks, he told a political gathering in Ankara, had increased interest rates, causing Turkey’s annual growth rate to fall from 8.8 percent to 2.2 percent in the last year.
 
“I am telling this to whomever – one bank, two banks, three banks,” Erdogan warned, “ … you started this fight, you will pay for it… Those who try to bring the stock exchange down … we will throttle you.”
 
The prime minister also lashed out at Cem Boyner, the chief executive officer of Boyner Holdings AS, a retail and manufacturing conglomerate that owns more than 380 department stores.
 
Boyner was one of thousands who demonstrated in Gezi Park, sarcastically declaring himself an economic “looter.” So did Ergun Ozen, the head of GE Garanti Bank, one of Turkey’s largest financial institutions.
 
Who are the looters?
 
Political and economic analyst Kemal Kirisci said declaring oneself a “looter” has become something of a badge of honor in recent weeks among a certain segment of the Turkish political spectrum.
 
“It’s a term the prime minister used in a denigrating fashion against the protesters,” said Kirisci, director of the Turkey project at the Brookings Institution’s Center on the United States and Europe. “Now, I think there is a broadly supported consensus that this particular usage of the term did fuel the protest and led to its aggravation.”

That may be so, but Kirisci and other political analysts sid the harshness of Erdogan’s Gezi Park crackdown and his handling of Turkey’s economy are not doing anything to further his hopes of becoming Turkey’s next president.
 
And that, said Kirisci and the analysts, may be why Erdogan and his supporters are talking about scapegoats and conspiracy theories to blame for Turkey's woes.
 
“The notion of referring to conspiracy theories in Turkey and in the region is not particularly new,” Kirisci said.
 
Turkish economist Seyfettin Gursel, director of the Bahcesehir University Center for Economic and Social Research, said the relatively prosperous West and its dominant banking system were enticing targets. And the United States was the best target of all, Gursel wrote in the English language daily, Today's Zaman.
 
Turkey’s economic downturn, Gursel wrote, was at least partially the result of international capital pulling out of the Turkish economy after U.S. Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke announced Washington's intentions to end its loose monetary policy, he said.
 
“This statement of intention [by Bernanke] caused an exodus … from the Turkish market” and other emerging markets,” Gursel wrote.
 
But according to Gursel, Erdogan also needed a local scapegoat and settled on the bankers and the business community.
 
“He, obviously, confuses - voluntarily or not - speculation with manipulation,” Gursel said of Erdogan's quarrel with the bankers. 
 
But even though Turkey’s stock market is beginning to bounce back from its losses last month, Gursel said the country still has to avoid being trapped in a long period of flat or slow growth. And the way to do that, he said, is through radical reform of Turkey's fiscal system, its labor markets and public education system.
 
The path to the presidency is less clear

Though easy to articulate, Gursel said such wide-ranging reforms could not even begin until after Erdogan and his party get through the the coming 2014 elections.
 
“The party is more focused on establishing a presidential system that would make Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan a powerful president in the next decade…, ” he says. For now, he continues, “all these economic reforms are postponed to the aftermath of a series of elections starting March 2014 and ending July 2015,” he said.
 
The bottom line is the powerful presidency Erdogan hoped to run may not happen anytime soon, if at all.
 
For the immediate future, Brookings’ Kirisci said the current talk in Turkish political circles is that Erdogan’s strategy of achieving constitutional change ”seems a lot less likely than what was the case before the [Gezi Park] protests.” 
 
According to Kirisci, even members of Erdogan's own party are not eager to introduce a strong presidential system in Turkey.
 
The likelihood of Erdogan “getting himself elected is not as cut and dried as if he were to present himself as a prime minister,” Kirisci said, adding that the party's own bylaws limit a prime minister to two terms in office.
 
Kirisci concludes, however, that whatever Erdogan decides, his AK Party will do well for itself in the next elections.
 
“The moral of the story here is that he and his political party, if they were to run for election today, they would only lose about 5 or 6 percent,” Kirisci said. “That’s not a lot.”

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More