Ankara is about to lose control over key issues
President Tayyip Erdoğan has been saying that everything is fine, but many key issues tend to get out of control. Let’s start listing the problems without further ado.
Uncontrolled herd immunity
1- The coronavirus epidemic has spread again, starting to collapse the morale of society. The Covid-19 outbreak, which regressed due to restrictive -but not sufficient- measures in April and May, exploded when these measures were suddenly lifted in June-July despite all the warnings, mainly because of pressure from the trade and tourism lobbies. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, who had said the country was even ready for a second wave, is now talking about “the second peak of the first wave”. According to a survey by MetroPoll, some 60 percent of the public no longer believes in official figures released every day. Only a few months ago, some 70 percent of the public believed in these figures. Erdoğan and his close circle stay protected in Beştepe, which has now turned into an ivory tower. But in the meantime, the disease is spreading everywhere – in the workers’ neighborhoods of Ankara and Istanbul, the parliament, political parties. At the start, the concept of “controlled herd immunity” was debated but now it seems that it is no longer in control. Leaving the strings in the hands of the voters who say “our business should be open regardless of the consequences,” Erdoğan still points to the people who do not wear masks as the sole reason for the rising spread of the disease.
Moreover, the health army that he applauded from his balcony in March has started to suffer from illness severely.
Lira continues to lose value
2- Erdoğan lends full support to Berat Albayrak, the minister of treasury and finance, and his son-in-law. When Albayrak became the minister in 2018, the Treasury and Finance ministries were merged to give him space, and the Central Bank and TÜİK, the official statistics institute, were given under the authority of the new ministry. This economy administration even claims that the shrinkage of the economy and the increase in inflation are positive signs. Billions of dollars of foreign exchange were poured into the market from the vaults of the public banks just for the sake of not letting the value of the local currency go under 7 Turkish Liras per dollar, a self-proclaimed psychological limit. It did not work out, 1 dollar is at around 7.5 liras today. The state has been paying to five contractors who are close to the government –I would rather not call them a gang just to avoid bothering prosecutors–cash over this foreign exchange rate for the construction of bridges that few cars cross or airports to which few planes land. But now, the pressure by the textile and construction lobbies for “not letting the lira gain value” is back. They are happy to turn the Covid-19 outbreak into an opportunity to produce goods with low costs due to a weak lira and earn in with dollars and euros. The manufacturing industry – primarily the automotive sector- which has to import inputs with dollars and euros and sell them in lira, wants the lira to gain value. Not to mention the increase in the special consumption tax (SCT). But things are about to get out of control in the economy too. Increasing consumer prices make life even harder every day for low-income citizens.
Ups and downs in foreign policy
3- Erdoğan dropped Turkey’s diplomatic relations with Egypt in reaction to Abdul Fettah Sisi, who overthrew Mohammed Morsi. He does not even attend the meals attended by Sisi. But why does Turkey support the coup administration in Mali, then? Turkey was one of the first countries to extend a helping hand to Mali for the sake of “stability” after the military coup on Aug. 20. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visited the West African country despite the in the Covid-19 risks to promise support. But what has happened? Are we making a distinction between coups now? Is it a bad thing in Egypt, but a good one in Mali? Regarding the problems with Greece, although Turkey”s case is rightful, it cannot tell the world about it due to Erdoğan’s habit of carrying out diplomacy by fighting. Tensions with Russia are again escalating in Syria. A certain distance was taken with the support given to the government in Libya, but then again, Ankara hit brakes because of Russia. I hope the price of being so close to Russia for the sake of sending messages to the U.S. and the EU will not be heavy.
Blackmail of religious sects
4- After losing many municipal administrations to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) –including Istanbul and Ankara– Erdoğan now faces blackmail by the Islamist sects and orders, which have lost major interests and also have spotted that Erdoğan’s voting grassroots is melting. These sects have turned into a headache for Erdoğan with demands ranging from the annulment of the Istanbul Convention against violence against women to bringing back the caliphate. They are like insistent street musicians of Turkish taverns who would not leave your table if you don’t pay them. We observe efforts to ignore the vile moral corruption of some of these sects and cover up or normalize their criminal acts. Moreover, this reactionary indulgence, which has raised the stakes to insult Atatürk, the Republic, women’s rights, and women, has begun to disturb both Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, Erdoğan’s electoral partner, and urban and educated AKP-supporter women, who are aware of their rights. On top of that, the Religious Affairs (Diyanet) is portraying itself as a “state within the state”, reminiscence of the General Staff back in the 1980s and 1990s. The head of the Religious Affairs posing with a sword in his hand at the opening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque might have satisfied some radical audience but the government is blinded with its ideology to see that it disturbed the majority of the society.
Power in one hand
You can add more examples to these. But even this much raises concerns that things are about to get out of control, despite –or because of– the nature of the Presidential Government System that unites all the power in one hand.
Ministers, MPs, judges and others cannot make necessary decisions and practice them on time in this system, which seeks the President’s approval even in the smallest decision. There are not expected to take initiative but do what they are told
The pressure on journalists and writers is part of this.
As efforts to gain control over all segments of society from the business world to the media increases, the government seems to be losing control. Here lies the main dilemma.