Symbolically and a virtual crutch-role player in propping up the almost all-set for the wheelchair Erdogan and ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party regime, far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader, Devlet Bahçeli, must have talked from a one-to-one burden bearing experience when he declared that Erdogan needs to take “painful” economic recovery measures.
These Erdogan ally’s words clicked live, in my memory, a bible narrative about Simon of Cyrene, who was forced by would-be-torturers to help condemned-to-death Jesus carry his cross on the way to the crucifixion site. In this scenario, Simon was definitely the best placed in the procession to make real comment on the Jesus’ cross burden because he experienced it physically. He bore part of its weight.
The words also rekindled the African indigenous knowledge observation which says: “Atakutwalilemu tamanya okw’osikilirwe” — meaning he who is not sharing your load, can’t appreciate how much you are burden ladden.”
No wonder this Erdogan’s strategic support pillar, Bahçeli, under the weight of their joint power-threatening interest rates economic catastrophe complicated by the Turkish Central Bank foreign reserves sinking below zero for the first time in just above two decades (since 2002), found himself delivering what could be recorded as an important political guide for the regime’s newly appointed economic team to pursue a more conventional approach to cure Turkey’s accumulating or cumulative woes, to borrow a little from elementary Economics.
In a seemingly critical hint or warning to Erdogan – that is, if it was not an already agreed transitional short-term trick between them towards the March 2024 municipal polls — MHP chairman Bahçeli, himself an economist, who also played the Speaker of the Grand National Assembly’s role to hand over the instrument of power to Erdogan, said “his (party’s) view on interest rates is clear; it has not changed. In theory and practice, an increase in interest rates is a political choice that discourages investment, hinders production and makes the need for credit more expensive. However, there are short-term and sometimes painful measures that need to be taken for Turkey to achieve economic stability and it has become inevitable to bear the current burden.”
Eventually, a respective central bank committee, working under Erdogan’s two newly appointed internationally respected officials to head the bank and the finance ministry, raised the key rate by 6.5% to 15% — the first since the March 2021 freeze; despite that being taken to be still lower than market expectations.
One Hopkins University expert put it at “a little bit behind the curve”, prompting new bank Governor Hafize Gaye Erkan to respond that more hikes were in the pipeline until the inflation situation in the country improves. On his part, against the backdrop of the lira still falling further, the new rates notwithstanding, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek, under whose portfolio also falls the Treasury, said a predictable fiscal policy and free exchange rate regime will “ensure stability ….”
One thing worth taking note of is that Erdogan himself restated that his position on interest rates (like Bahçeli’s) remains unchanged, adding “but we accepted that Simsek should take the necessary steps rapidly and effortlessly with the central bank”.
Whatever lies behind his statement is, and to be or not to be, the interest rates question remains a thorn in the back of Erdogan and ally Bahçeli because of its implied effect on the common man’s pocket and the effect this could have on the March 2024 municipal elections. In the interim, the face of Erdogan’s and MHP ally’s Turkey definitely shines better in the market. It’s fine. But what about the ballot boxes count in the forthcoming mayoral elections? For the duo, under whatever circumstances, nothing short of remaining in power is thinkable.
This clearly translates into more of a ‘bitter pill’ for Turkey’s strongman than simply a “painful economic recovery measure”. Even before the implications of the new interest rates ‘harrowing’ the common man’s pocket because it had already gone beyond the ‘ploughing’ stage, the urban voter landscape is not in favor of Erdogan and AKP. Ballot counts from the just ended presidential and parliamentary election process reveal Erdogan’s victory emanating mainly from the information-starved rural voter, who was also target of a barrage of disinformation. This time around, the March 2024 exercise will be urban-specific — among voters with access to more diverse information sources. What could prevent them from repeating the 2019 Ankara, Izmir and Istanbul polls story, spelling disaster to the Erdogan camp?
Demands of Turkey’s real stability go beyond the Bahçeli prescription of “short-term economic measures.” There are other “current burdens” that are so basic and more critical that their inevitable address requires emergency treatment. And these are so many that they could leave one wondering if Erdogan could survive a full dose treatment regime.
This analysis tries to address these burdens in a series, taking the Gulen Movement repressions as the right-marker ailment, for the cure of which Erdogan needs to rather take the bitter pill. Bahçeli’s “painful measure” prescription is too mild; it falls short of the requirement.
From the outset, when Bahçeli talked of “short-term and sometimes painful measures that need to be taken for Turkey to achieve economic stability,” he was acting the African drum maker. He was pulling strings towards himself (and by implication to colleague Erdogan). However, what should be confirmed from his words is that for the sake of the regime’s survival, “it has (indeed) become inevitable to bear the current burden.”
Now the question becomes: “What constitutes the sum total of Turkey’s current burden, the bearing of which is (should be) inevitable?” Answers abound. Where the Erdogan, AKP and ally regime have gone and are still going wrong systemically, is failure to appreciate or, by plan, ignoring what is even written in the scriptures that “man does not live on bread alone…”
Within the echoes of Bahçeli ‘words of advice’ to Erdogan, news from more than 2,200 km away from the Ankara Turkey government seat, in Strasbourg, France, revealed above a thousand Turkish expatriates and human rights activists staging a protest march at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to demand justice for the victims of human rights violations in the country of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The occasion was organized by the Peaceful Actions Platform comprising 24 civil society groups. They did not march for a stronger lira.
In a sort of the protest-march sharpening move, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution condemning all forms of transnational repression – the assassination, intimidation or harassment by a state of its perceived enemies living abroad – as a growing threat to the rule of law and human rights and expressed concern about Turkey’s relentless pursuit of anyone allegedly related to the Gülen movement.
The resolution said, in part: “The Assembly is concerned about the fact that Türkiye has also used some of the tools of transnational repression, particularly following the coup attempt of July 2016 and its consistent policy of pursuing amongst others anyone allegedly related to the ‘Gülen movement’ …” It listed the Turkish government’s tactics being relied upon after its official extradition requests being denied as “renditions, abuse of extradition proceedings, Interpol Red Notices, anti-terror financing measures, and co-opting other States to deport or transfer persons unlawfully.”
Who would hesitate posting these injustices being perpetrated on the Hizmet (Service) Movement and its real and perceived followers in the Number One Slot of Turkey’s current burdens (problems) whose inevitable measures need to be taken to achieve the country’s stability? Even dictators need some level of stability to conduct their repressive activities.
In a joint letter, UN rapporteurs accused the Turkish government of engaging in the systematic practice of state-sponsored extraterritorial abductions and forcible returns to Turkey, with at least 100 Turkish nationals renditioned from multiple states to Turkey. Most recently, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) confirmed in its annual report that it had conducted operations for the forcible return of more than 100 people with alleged links to the Gülen movement.
Out of the ordinary, former vice-president Fuat Oktay took time to praise this anomaly in parliament as Turkish agents “diplomacy” conducted with their counterparts in the respective countries. Turkey’s efforts at transnational repression against critics abroad continue as usual. In the eyes of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), the operations are arbitrary and violate international human rights norms and standards.
On the home ground, the situation has equally remained inimical for the Gülen Movement members and those suspected to be. Post-coup Erdogan’s emergency decrees have seen more than 130,000 people lost civil, military, and judiciary jobs. Until now when you are reading this analysis, chances are that more innocent people, including new-born babies, are facing consequences of a false flag coup Erdogan is holding on to, to perpetrate all kinds of injustices on a segment of his people.
From Bahçeli’s well visioned critical link between the lira and his colleague’s political survival, doesn’t the way in which the Erdogan regime has been treating the Gülen Movement people constitute the burden demanding the “painful recovery measure” for Turkey’s sake?
Shouldn’t the treatment of this ailment or solution to this burden, going beyond Bahçeli, actually take precedence over that of the lira power? That is, for a leader who is not only chasing riches and power? What are Erdogan and ally Bahçeli chasing and for whom? Those are the pertinent questions.