Turkey’s economy was on the verge of a critical turn even before President Tayyip Erdoğan treated Turkey’s Industry and Business Association’s (TÜSİAD) public announcement against the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) policies as a declaration of war. After TÜSİAD defined the recent monetary move to cut policy rates as “wrong” and urged the government to “stop insisting on the wrongdoing”, and Central Bank intervened the market for the fifth time in two weeks, Istanbul Chamber of Industry (ISO) and Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) also expressed their concern. Following the critical announcements from Turkey’s leading business circles, Borsa Istanbul, which had already bubbled artificially, collapsed. All eyes were already on Monday, December 20, to the markets’ response.
However, the President reacted to the business and industrial sector’s criticism as a declaration of war. Moreover, giving justification for the monetary policy from Islamic rhetoric increased uncertainty.
“They criticize us for reducing the interest rates. Do not expect anything else from me. I will do whatever Nas (God’s words) teaches as a Muslim. That’s what the commandment says,” Erdoğan said on December 19 at an award ceremony of “Knowledge Dissemination Foundation”, which had pioneered the development of the political Islamist movement in the 1950s in Turkey with the USA-supported “Anti-Communism Associations”.
The President says that he acted with the reference of the Qur’an and will continue to do so. Have we come to the stage of using religious beliefs in the economy?
Political Islamist dressing for the voters hit by the crisis?
This statement is open to interpretation whether Erdogan wants to transform the Republic in its 100th year into an Islamic Republic as one of his 2023 goals.
But at this stage, concentrating on AKP’s effort to consolidate its constituency using Islamist discourse would be more explanatory for the following period. Erdogan uttered these words to justify his famous motto: “interest is the reason, inflation is the result”, which he named “my thesis” for the first time during the Turkey-Africa meetings. Does Erdogan try to dress the wounds of the AKP voters hit by the crisis with the Political Islamist rhetoric and propagate “anyone who opposes this will be opposing the Qur’an and Islam”? He puts himself in the place of the only defender of “nas”. In doing so, he doesn’t even care who will pay the bill if the program fails.
Ignore the “we stand with the President against foreign forces” slogans of the electorate conditioned on state-run or pro-government news outlets. Apart from a handful of AK-Elites, the happy minority, who take full advantage of the blessings of power, the AKP base is also affected by the economic crisis. In addition, discontent with the consequences of AKP’s monetary policy also began to be voiced by the AKP administration.
Will Nabati go too?
“Uncertainty is more dangerous than the high exchange rate. The market cannot price the goods and services. I ordered and paid for winter tires (for my automobile), but they cancelled the order twice. I can’t replace the broken balcony glass; the carpenter gives an appointment to 2 months. Social tensions deepen. Beware,” Şamil Tayyar, AKP’s top official, posted on Twitter.
GazeteDuvar, an online newspaper, on the other hand, broke the news that internal party reactions to the Treasury and Finance Minister Nureddin Nebati were growing. One of the three reasons for this discontent is that he mentioned “distrust” at his meeting with investors on December 11 instead of sticking to Erdogan’s “hostility of foreign powers” rhetoric. The other is that he gave an interview to Habertürk newspaper reporter Sevilay Yılman and said, “you only lose your salary (if this program fails), but I will lose everything,” downplaying the anxiety of millions. And finally, his brother Seydullah Nebati accurately predicted that the interest rate would be lowered by hundred base points the day before the Central Bank decision. For this reason, IYI Party leader Meral Akşener asked who would benefit from the currency game and caled out prosecutors to open an investigation about Minister’s brother on “insider trading”.
Nebati, on the other hand, is trying to protect his place and his position by saying, “let’s not talk about the interest rate increase” in his meeting with the bankers.
Both labour and capital warns
The responses to the President, who said “we know your ignorance” as a reaction to TUSİAD’s criticism, do not come from a single source. I am not only talking about the comments of TOBB President Hisarcıklıoğlu, who has been one of the most important supporters of Erdoğan in the business circles. In addition to Hisarcıklıoğlu, it is also important to note the warning of Anadolu Group President Tuncay Özilhan, who is a part of domestic-production automobile project TOGG. “We cannot reach our targets without the stability in the economy,” Özilhan, who is also in the management of TÜSİAD, said.
“Let’s not be a low wage heaven,” he added in his article in Dünya Newspaper, also emphasizing the income distribution gap.
The remarkable thing is that KESK, the Confederation of Public Workers’ Unions, which held protest demonstrations on the streets of Istanbul and Ankara at the weekend, said almost the same things. So it was probably the policy of the Erdogan government, not foreign powers, that brought the capital and labour sectors together on a similar basis in Turkey.
The fact that only support comes from the conservative capitalists’ organization MUSİAD can signify that Erdoğan is now trying to overcome the economic crisis with the Political Islamic rhetoric.
We are in a critical week in all respects.