We have long forgotten how witty jokes spice up politics. First Meral Akşener, the head of İYİ Party, and then Ali Babacan, the chair of DEVA Party reminded us of that on the same day.
Devlet Bahçeli, the head of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the partner of President Tayyip Erdoğan, had called on Akşener to “return home.” Akşeher had abandoned the MHP that was in line with the government and founded İYİ. So on Dec. 24, she posted a photo of herself on social media, with an open response to Bahçeli. “I am returning home after finishing my work at party headquarters.” This is a kind of humor inherited from the right-wing politicians of Turkey from decades ago – Süleyman Demirel and Necmettin Erbakan.
Then came a definition by Babacan, a former leading figure o the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Babacan described the government’s policy to keep tensions alive: “Enemy of the Week.”
In our live interview on broadcaster Olay TV late on Dec. 24, Babacan said the following:
• [For two past years] which problem have you [the government] solved in this country? Continuous hate, ceaseless insult, ceaselessly declaring enemies… They cannot produce solutions, they try to attract public attention to other places.
• Today the HDP [the Peoples’ Democratic Party] becomes the enemy, tomorrow it is the West, the next day Russia, another country, or the interest lobby. Note that the enemies never run out. It is like they have this billboard that they change each week: “Enemy of the Week.”
“Environment of poverty, unemployment, sickness and fear‘
Below are quotes from Babacan:
• “The biggest enemies of this country right now are poverty, unemployment and the pandemic. Every day a plane full of people die in this country. Go and solve this. What do you produce for God’s sake as a solution to this? What do you suggest?
• “These are the enemies that you should fight. Stop looking for other enemies. You cannot fight these enemies, you cannot succeed in this and you declare others as enemies.
• “Over the past year, we visited 41 cities. Problems expressed by citizens on the streets, especially the youth are unemployment and the high cost of living.
• “But while speaking of these two problems (…) some of our citizens were whispering in our ears. Young people come near us and say “we have a lot of problems.” However, they were afraid to share them on social media. This is a climate of fear …
• [They fear that] they would fail the interviews of state jobs even if succeed in written exams. Because they [the state] look at the social media posts of the applicants and try to understand their political tendency. Lack of freedom of expression and the climate of oppression is an issue that currently affects society deeply.
• But it has a limit. When people start talking openly when they have nothing to lose. I regret to say that the number of citizens who have nothing to lose is increasing rapidly. “
“Erdoğan can’t introduce judicial reform”
• The European Court of Human Rights has decided on right violations in 356 cases concerning Turkey. This is only followed by Russia with 72 cases. We champion the league of violation of free expression. Isn’t it a pity for this country?
• “It is not possible to achieve success in a country where people are silenced, the press is silenced, scientists are silenced and civil society is silenced.
• It is no longer possible to speak of the rule of law in Turkey. Mr. Erdoğan can maneuver in any matter. He can maneuver in foreign policy. But if there is one thing that this government can not do, it is judicial reforms. Because the administration does not believe that the judiciary should be independent.
Did Erdoğan “bow” to the interest rate lobby?
• “Since Jan. 1, the state has spent $130 billion to keep the value of lira above 7 per dollar. The state makes foreign currency sales implicitly, so the exact figure is unknown. How come the interest rate doubled after three Central Bank governors in office?
• The interest rate stood at 8.25 percent in September 2020, and reached 17 percent in December, which more than double. On Nov. 6, they changed the entire economy administration. The relative [former Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak who is also the son-in-law of Erdoğan] has gone missing. Democracy requires a transparent and accountable administration.
• As the monetary policy is misplaced, foreign investors bought dollars for cheap prices and left. The Central Bank’s reserves do not build up easily. Years of labor are melting before our eyes because of wrong policies, stubbornness.
• Those who followed President Erdoğan’s call to “sell dollars” suffered losses. While the world is trading with interest rates, how can you explain the 17 percent interest in Turkey? There is this impression that President Erdogan is not deciding on the rate hike. But all of these are within his knowledge and permission.
• They try to keep up the business, using made-up and unknown concepts [like interest lobby]. So, has Erdoğan bowed to the interest lobby now?
Babacan: We lost the F-35s, we cannot use the S-400s
• We cannot speak of a foreign policy today. The worst in foreign affairs is being left alone. We have become so unwanted in the world that unexpected countries come together against us. Who would say that Israel and the Gulf countries should come together?
• There were two air defense projects that we were working on. The first one was buying F-35 fighter jets to replace the old F-16s, while producing our domestic warplane. That’s why we partnered with the F-35. Turkey has already expelled from the F-35 project. They sell the planes made with the parts we produce to others.
• “We lost both billions of dollars and the F-35s. Sanctions came when we tried to open the lid of S-400s bought from Russia. With the sanctions, Turkey now cannot import the most important defense industry components. It is not clear which external threats the S-400s will be used against.
“Absurd” instructions from Ankara
• Patriot missile systems are important. The U.S? Congress made a big mistake by preventing the sale of these weapons [to Turkey]. But you cannot correct a mistake by another. It is also wrong to take a step that will hit the defense industry by getting angry with this and investing billions of dollars in a system that has compatibility problems [with NATO].
• The Foreign Ministry has been disabled in foreign policy. Successful diplomats to carry out the foreign policy have been left out. At the moment, we have diplomats who have to follow the absurd instructions from Ankara and have to defend them. Some of them cannot stand it and resign. For example, deputy chairman of the DEVA Party, Abdurrahman Bilgiç, was only 55 years old when he resigned after the London Embassy, although the retirement age at the ministry is 65.