Turkey’s international outlook

Turkey’s international outlook

It was a time when Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek was meeting with Moody’s executives in Ankara. I was at lunch with a group of economists, including an international investment fund executive, a bank executive and a market analyst. They were not as content as Şimşek. They had still not been able to overcome the post-traumatic stress of July 15.

They disagreed on two points. First, they were not sure that the coup attempt had not only strengthened Turkey’s democracy but also its economy. Second, because anti-Erdoğanism has become chronic in the foreign media, even though Turkey managed to fend off a military coup its international image has not been restored. This is a serious problem that will affect the ratings of international credit agencies.

The widespread resistance against the coup attempt should have created admiration and sympathy, but it has not received the reflection it deserves in the world media. This makes repairing the damage even more difficult. 

The uneasiness of the economists I was with down to this. They did not expect Turkey’s credit ratings to be downgraded overnight. But unless the right policies are adopted there will be a drop in three months, one of them was ready to bet. They doubted whether that correct direction would be followed.
Policies to be adopted and the evolution of the economy are interconnected. I reminded them of the recent party leaders’ summit at the presidential palace in Ankara, the moderation at the top level. 

Their interpretation was that moderation is positive. Indeed, it is the only way out for all political sides, as all other roads lead to a cliff. 

Today, political leaders seem to have a very rational, constructive and conciliatory attitude. There is plenty of reasonableness and moderation in the air. They are saying “let’s write a new constitution together, let’s process a judicial reform package in a spirit of reconciliation and dialogue.” But, the economists wondered, what if this stance changes once the threat is gone? 

I told them that this anxiety was like the anxiety felt for an unborn child. There is no possibility to answer this question right now, but we can look at the probabilities. 

From President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, from main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtaş, all political actors were at the end of their road. There could go no further down the path they were on. But now the huge events of July 15 opened a new window of opportunity. They know that they do not have the luxury of rejecting this opportunity. 

This is a rock hard truth. I don’t think you can find a stronger guarantee. 

I drew attention to the structural reform pledge of Şimşek given that morning. They did not pay attention. They were focused on a more critical issue, the future of the Kurdish peace process. They asked whether the window of opportunity I mentioned was also valid for the Kurdish issue. They were wondering whether the peace process would be revived. 

I told them: If not now, then when? The Kurdish issue-focused HDP has a historic responsibility in this, just as much as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Abdullah Öcalan.
Who would have believed it one month ago if you said that we could return to this point? But now, all the circumstances that were impossible to imagine have been formed, perhaps never to come together again. Nobody should blow this chance. 

They thought I was being too optimistic. But this is not an optimism coming out of nowhere. Even HDP co-chair Demirtaş has issued calls on the PKK and the government, saying “Turkey today is not the same Turkey of before July 15. This new situation should be well assessed.” 

Well, he is aware of this new situation. Are you?