The steps included the impeachment of the notorious central bank governor and his replacement with an untested loyalist on Saturday, a move that triggered a fall in the value of the Turkish lira to near record levels before settling at around eight percent. one US dollar, down 15 percent. cent of the previous week.
Financial markets have also fallen, adding additional pressure on an economy already reeling from the effects of the pandemic, depleting reserves and drastically reducing foreign investment.
In London, Paul McNamara, chief investment officer at GAM Asset Managers, said: This move does not suggest any understanding of how markets work and the limited tools Turkey has at its disposal.
On the same day, Ankara announced that it would withdraw from the 2011 Istanbul Convention on Violence Against Women, denouncing the international agreement as a project to normalize homosexuality and incompatible with social values. and family from Turkey.
The rejection of the treaty sparked protests from women’s rights advocates concerned about the continuing violence against Turkish women, but delighted the conservatives and traditionalists who make up Mr Erdogans’ base.
The weekend’s decisions came days after authorities launched legal action to dissolve the country’s third-largest political party, the left-wing Kurdish-led People’s Democratic Party (HDP), accusing it of links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), banned. The lawsuit sparked angry cries from the United States and Western officials.
These measures come against the backdrop of a generally lukewarm economy and a sharply declining number of polls for Mr. Erdogan, his Justice and Development Party (AKP) and his junior ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). ) far right.
Several polls over several weeks show that Erdogans’ coalition is below 50% popularity, center-left and center-right opposition parties are gaining ground and parties formed by former leaders of the AKP garner at least 5% support.
Selim Sazak, political analyst affiliated with Ankaras Bilkent University and Brown University in the United States, says: The Erdogans’ room for political maneuver is somewhat limited. He cannot abandon the nationalists. He cannot win over the Kurds and he must solidify the base.
Withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention wins the approval of cultural conservators. Putting pressure on the HDP accedes to the demands of the nationalists, who are an integral part of Mr. Erdogans’ coalition. An analyst close to the government says: The MHP doesn’t ask for much, but when it asks for something, it expects it to be delivered.
Getting rid of respected Central Bank Governor Naci Agbal, who has raised interest rates, tamed inflation and stabilized the lira, strengthens the outlook for exporters and manufacturers while hurting financiers, bankers and reducing the lira. savings for city dwellers.
The high interest rates despised by Erdogan but demanded by economists to curb inflation have hurt the export-oriented Anatolian manufacturers, who constitute an increasingly important part of his political base. High inflation, on the other hand, hurts the urban classes working in the finance and service industries, members of the middle and upper classes who have long voted against the AKP and Mr. Erdogan.
To help government supporters, the Turkish Ministry of Commerce announced a plan to restructure the debts of small traders.
Mr. Sazak says: his redistribution of wealth. The blue collar workers, Mr Erdogan, will make sure they are okay. Hell, make sure they’re taken care of by welfare programs.
Mr. Erdogans’ multi-pronged gambit to strengthen his grip on power is risky. The United States, Germany and others have criticized Turkey’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention and its assault on the HDP.
US President Joe Biden said in a statement: Countries should work to strengthen and renew their commitments to end violence against women, not reject international treaties designed to protect women and hold perpetrators accountable.
Turkey’s weekend decisions virtually dissolved any diplomatic goodwill among NATO allies created by a recent easing of tensions with France over Libya and with Greece and Cyprus over the maritime disputes of the eastern Mediterranean.
These measures could also backfire at the national level by spurring women and Kurds to mobilize, which could hurt Mr Erdogans’ prospects in the 2023 elections, or as some speculate, early elections he could. decide to convene from mid-2021. Women’s rights groups have already called for a week of protests against the decision to reject the 2011 agreement, in which European nations pledged to take action to tackle gender-based violence.
Turkey’s economy could still spiral out of control. International investors who were once a mainstay of Turkey’s once thriving economy have almost declared the country a no-go zone, exacerbating unemployment. Even government supporters said they were upset by the measures to sack Mr Agbal. Turkish companies and public entities are struggling to repay $ 435 billion ($ 311 billion) in foreign currency-denominated debt.
mit zlale, vice chairman of the opposition party Iyi and former adviser to the Central Bank, says: Every businessman we talk to behind our doors expresses his concerns and negative opinions, but in public he expresses feelings very positive. The business community [is] under great pressure and cannot criticize government practices.
But with the pandemic still draining the economy and at least two offshoots of the AKP gaining traction in the polls, Erdogan may be calculating that now is the time to act.
Mr. Sazak says: If you expect the poll numbers to drop even lower, now is your time. You’re expelling Mr. Agbal. You put money into public programs. You divide and confuse the opposition. Maybe you win an election in five or six months. He has the advantage but his very high risk.
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