There was one thing that President Tayyip Erdoğan had never done during his rule since 2002: He had never sacrificed a minister targeted by the opposition during the peak of the debate. The first example of this was Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, his son-in-law. More interestingly, only a few months ago, when Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu resigned, he had persuaded him to stay, saying “Don’t go, I need you.”
As economist Mahfi Eğilmez highlighted, the reasons for such a move is not limited to the fact that Albayrak convinced Erdoğan to the fallacy that “higher interest rate is not the result of inflation, but its cause.” The fact that the value of the Turkish Lira has been reduced to a historic law by the hand of the government only as a result of that approach is also not the sole reason. Neither the failure of the three “strategic” plans he announced in just two years, nor the “economy lectures” he offered to the business world, telling them “Look, this is very important” and without giving an ear to what they say.
The perception built by the opposition, especially due to the constant criticism and warnings by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and İYİ Party leader, Akşener, has an important share in this
Albayrak was targeted by the opposition for two years
Here is a summary of Kılıçdaroğlu’s related speeches at his CHP’s weekly parliament group meetings and other statements:
- “Mr. Erdoğan, if you do not want this nation to be devastated, the first thing you will do is to terminate the job of that high-society member son-in-law of yours. Sometimes you blame it on him, sometimes you protect him. That high-society son-in-law does not about the economy. His dismissal will ease the community and even the grassroots of your party.”
And find below a summary of the words by Akşener she repeated over and over at the İYİ Party group meetings.
- “Mr. Erdoğan, if you like your son-in-law that much, then go start a company, appoint your son-in-law as the head of it and watch him collapse it. Stop playing game with the livelihood of the nation. It is either you remove your son-in-law from the office or this nation will put you in front of the gate together with him. I tell you.”
The mainstream media neglects these, asking “What the opposition has done,” but these are what the opposition insistently said. And it is true that Albayrak’s departure slightly eased the tensions in the economy, the society and the ruling Justice and Development Partşy (AKP).
What was the ruling front doing?
Erdoğan kept Albayrak, the pupil of his eye, in the office despite all the criticism. Of course, his policy of embracing the ministers under the opposition fire and appointing them to other offices once the debate loses heat, played a part.
But as the opposition was criticizing the minister, what was Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, Erdoğan’s de facto partner in ruling Turkey, was saying? Let’s remember that too:
- “They are slamming Mr. Berat Albayrak, whom we find very successful! One needs a little decency, a little virtue. These the stooges of Kemal Derviş (the former economy chief after the 2001 economic crisis and a former ), the recruited freaks cannot deceive the Turkish nation. It’s always the same old song! It’s always the same tale! The Treasury is empty, they say. We will apply to the IMF, they say. The economy is very badly managed, they say! “
Let us remind you that Bahçeli, who was the first political leader to react when Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu resigned, and made a calm for him to return to the office, remained silent to Albayrak’s resignation.
Erdoğan had also said he found Soylu successful and wanted him to stay, but in his speech after Albayrak’s departure, he was content with giving concrete examples of two seismic and three drilling ships. These were the achievements of Albayrak during his tenure as the Energy Minister, not the Treasury and Finance.
Was it all because of Albayrak?
Of course, it wasn’t. Erdoğan has emphasized repeated times that he is responsible for the administration of the economy. And this was true.
Is it possible that a president, who personally deals even with the appointments of lower-level civil servants, is unaware of the Central Bank balance sheet simply because his son-in-law is responsible for it? No. Didn’t Erdoğan know that the numbers written on the Central Bank’s website give correct results only as a result of certain mathematical calculations and that these data alone mean something? Economists Eğilmez and Uğur Gürses insistently write about it. But in Erdoğan’s words, “when the time came,” the real reports on the real situation presented to him by Naci Ağbal, became instrumental.
And similarly, when the tradesmen in the eastern province of Malatya objected to anti-coronavirus measures, who said “We cannot bring bread to our houses,” the AKP executives pointed to Albayrak, telling the president that “Sir, you shouldn’t pay the bill.”
Now it is time to ask as it is celebrated that the value of the Turkish currency went over 7 liras per dollar only after $100 billion state money was spent to keep it above 8 liras and some $50 billion of losses were made. Was Albayrak the sole official responsible of the grim picture?
Is the AKP really relieved?
Until recently, it was a sign of courage to mention Albayrak’s name without praise inside the AKP. That psychological threshold had been surpassed to some extent by the rejection of Soylu’s resignation.
At a time when citizens were telling the AKP lawmakers about their core problems such as the excessive depreciation of the lira, unemployment, and difficulties to make ends meet, Albayrak was careless enough to name the downward trend in the economy “psychological.”
The appointment of Lütfi Elvan to replace him is an indicator that the AKP is aware of the discomfort because of Albayrak within the party and the possibility of some of the deputies might shift to newly founded Future Party of Ahmet Davutoğlu, a former PM from the AKP ranks, and DEVA, another new party founded by former AKP strongman Ali Babacan.
Elvan’s first show up at the International Investors Association as the Minister of Treasury and Finance on Nov. 11 was in itself a message to the business world. The fall of the dollar’s value against the lira and the flow of foreign capital began after that meeting, Erdoğan’s speech in parliament. But Erdoğan’s permission to his son-in-law Albayrak, the target of the opposition, to quit and his assigning Elvan, one of the critics of Albayrak, may backfire in the AKP. After all, there are now alternative parties and there may even be a reward for staying with the party.