Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek was quoted in The Telegraph on Monday (Feb. 17), saying critics have blown the current situation in Turkey out of proportion. “Political stability is not at stake. Fall-out from corruption investigations is likely to be very limited. We will not waste this crisis: we will respond by enhancing standards of accountability,” he was reported as saying.
Şimşek is clearly involved in the damage control here. It is obvious, though, that he is rowing against a tide that belies his claims. To start with, there is no need to “blow out of proportion” the events that started in Turkey with the Gezi Park protests, and continued with the massive corruption scandal that broke on Dec. 17. Such developments would have been major news in any country.
But if there is any blame for “blowing things out of proportion,” this must be placed on Şimşek’s own government. Had it not turned a simple environmental protest in Taksim Square into an alleged massive conspiracy against Prime Minister Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP), and reacted with brutality, the result would have been very different.
But the government did not keep its reactions “in proportion,” going on to behave in a grossly intolerant and heavy-handed manner that inevitably attracted the attention of international media. It went on to further ruin its international reputation by inventing imaginary culprits like the curious “interest rate lobby” that is allegedly backed by the U.S. and Israel, and which is allegedly behind all of Turkey’s current troubles.
One cannot help but wonder if Şimşek, as a former London-based Merrill Lynch man, and an accomplished economist who obviously knows the world better than Erdoğan, believed this yarn himself. In the same vein, one cannot help but wonder how much Şimşek believes his own words when he says “political stability is not at stake” in Turkey.
Şimşek has to say this as finance minister of course, but it is hard to imagine that he believes his own words in view of what has been transpiring since last summer, and which has resulted in nothing but political instability. Again, this instability was precipitated by Erdoğan.
He is clearly on the warpath against what he considers to be existential threats to his political career, and his growing list of bitter enemies includes foreign countries, Turkish media and business groups, the Gülen movement, and just about anyone or any group that has the audacity to criticize him and his government.
Şimşek’s remark that “fall-out from corruption investigations is likely to be very limited,” is also odds with the economic turbulence Turkey has been experiencing since Dec. 17, with international investors remaining jittery about where Erdoğan is trying to take Turkey.
And then there is Şimşek’s contention that instead of wasting this crisis they “will respond by enhancing standards of accountability.” If only this were true, but it is not. Şimşek is intelligent enough to know how laughable this contention is to observers of Turkey when the government is unabashedly trying to prevent anything that will force it to account for anything, let alone corruption allegations.
It is not clear who Şimşek is trying to fool at a time when the government’s new law on the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which makes a mockery of the democratic “separation of powers” principle, and its new Internet law, which makes a mockery of the democratic principle of freedom of the press, have become the focus of critical attention at home and abroad.
So the simple question is: “Who do you think you are fooling Mr. Şimşek, when it is clear you are too intelligent to even fool yourself with such remarks?”