While the latest election polls showed that the meltdown in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its “People Alliance” partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) votes continued, not only the economy but also the judiciary ring alarm bells.
“We have an issue with the right to a fair trial,” the Constitutional Court (AYM) president Zühtü Arslan said in an opening ceremony of a seminar on January 10, stating that the number of individual applications to the top court indicates a problem.
“In 2021, 66 thousand 121 applications were made to our court. And more than 73 percent of these applications are for the right to a fair trial. In other words, nearly three-quarters of the applications made to our court last year involve complaints about the right to a fair trial,” Arslan said.
He added that 77 percent of the violation decisions of the court are about “fair trial”.
The practice to allow individuals to apply to the Constitutional Court started on September 23, 2012, and became a turning point in the judiciary. The cases such as Ergenekon and Balyoz were all concluded with individual applications.
The problem in the judiciary affects the economy as well as politics
The fact that the problem of justice in the judiciary is defined as “grave” by the head of the top court is highly alarming in terms of the functioning of democracy.
Among the files before the Constitutional Court, there is also the case of the closure of the Kurdish-issue focused People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which may profoundly affect the political landscape. The Constitutional Court had previously rejected the request of the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Supreme Court. However, at the insistence of the MHP, which started the process with its application, the Office of the Chief Prosecutor went to the Constitutional Court again. MHP leader Bahçeli had suggested that the Constitutional Court should be closed if not proceed with the closure of the HDP. His words led to objections even within their partner AKP. The ruling party, which escaped from closure by a single vote in 2008 when it was in power, had pivoted the change in the procedure of the closure of a political party with a constitutional amendment in 2010. With the amendment, 10 votes out of 15 members of the Constitutional Court is required to close a party.
The demand for the HDP to be closed and for the political ban of its 500 executives, including its co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar, is in line with Bahçeli’s strategy of constructing politics in the judiciary. But it contradicts President Tayyip Erdogan’s need to regain the Kurdish electorate.
Moreover, the health of the judicial system affects the economy and politics and the foreign investments expected to come to Turkey.
Economic policy became a riddle
What is meant here is not hot money that flows with foreign exchange-interest movements. Although the government is mostly consoled with real estate sales to the Gulf countries, foreign investments in production and employment have decreased by 50 percent in the last six years, according to the calculations of the website Doğruluk Payı.
As the problem of justice and fair trial in the judiciary grows, foreign investments decrease. The foreign investors considered the possibility of politicized judicial authorities confiscating the partners’ shares with whom they will do business in Turkey, even if it would be cancelled later. They look at the example of the Gülen group companies, which were established with all kinds of state incentives in previous years, and confiscated and handed over to AKP companies after the coup attempt of July 15 2016. In a time, even the motto “judiciary is independent” is open to discussion even among the judiciary itself.
Of course, the uncertainty prevailing in the judiciary is not the only factor. The larger factor is uncertainty in economic management. According to the backstage information from the experienced economics writer Erdal Sağlam, Erdoğan started to get discontent with his newly appointed Minister of Treasury and Finance Nureddin Nebati for two reasons.
Both reasons are the kind that can invalidate Erdogan’s theses on interest rates and inflation.
Will Nabati go too?
One of the reasons was the expectation that the US Dollar, which fell from 18 Turkish Liras to 11 Liras in a few hours with the December 20 decisions, would fall below 10 Liras by the end of December 2021. When it did not fall, the move was justified by discourses such as “the Treasury will gain, it is the surplus”. However, one US Dollars is still between 13.5-14 liras.
Another reason is the lack of demand for the “foreign currency protected Turkish Lira deposit” program that Erdoğan announced on December 20. In addition the rise in market rates despite Central Bank’s consecutive cuts.
In addition to this, despite the rhetoric “if we lower the interest rate, inflation will decrease”, the inflation exceeded the pre-AK Party period and became 36 percent. Presumably, if it fell from 36 to 33, for example, the government might call it a success and say, “we dropped the inflation”.
The hikes have swept away wage increases. After the complaints of women entrepreneurs, Nabati’s statement that he will focus on fighting inflation in 2022 may also have angered Erdogan.
Central Bank Governor Şahap Kavcıoğlu states that his primary duty is current account deficit, not to control inflation as it is stated by law. But Nebati seems to have lost himself to being popular.
Let’s look at the surveys
The average of the latest surveys shows that the meltdown continues in AKP and MHP. However, votes are not yet transferred to the CHP or IYI Party. The increase in both of them is below the rate of decrease from the AKP and MHP. There is no perceptible transition to the Future Party (Gelecek Partisi) and DEVA Party of the votes dissented from the People’s Alliance. HDP is more or less stands still.
Metropoll’s research shows that the overall proportion of undecided or unresponsive voters and electoral protesters placed in the undecided bracket is steadily climbing to the top. However, when these are distributed statistically, approximate estimates can be obtained.
Three questions remain:
1- If Erdogan recovers the economy this year, can he reconcile with his alienated electorate?
2- Can the economy be recovered with the thesis of “interest cause, inflation result”? And if the problems in the judiciary are added to this equation, will the investments that will increase employment, production and exports come to Turkey?
3- If these are not the case, can Erdoğan and Bahçeli consider taking steps that will further increase the pressure in the judiciary and politics as a solution?
It is necessary to evaluate these questions and the questions that make the alarm bells ring in the economy and the judiciary together.