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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid