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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid