Insipid leadership makes normalization harder

Insipid leadership makes normalization harder

Turkey held its election this June. Halfway through August, the country still has no government. Just before the election on June 7, 2015, I dubbed it as the outset of The Great Normalization in Turkey. That was published on June 6, 2015, mind you. There I noted a caveat, kind of a “personality” problem that may hamper the transition process. Let me reiterate.

“I know it looks messy now, but the trends underpinning this election could well yield a more stable country in the long run. The Great Normalization is underway. But there is a caveat. Tip O’Neil famously said that ‘all politics is local.’ I think Joe Biden improved on the phrase by saying that ‘all politics is personal.’ That means that individuals can at times throw a wrench into the gears of history. We know from economics that the assumption of rational action is completely and utterly false. All politics is personal. But if you ask me, that’s what makes this experiment so interesting.”

I still believe that Turkey is in a normalization process. Let me qualify: Insipid leadership makes normalization harder. Moderation requires leadership, yet this is not the age of great, charismatic leaders anymore, both in Turkey and in the world. Anyone interested in knowing what is happening in Turkey nowadays? It is insipid leadership. Is it bad? No. It is part of the normalization. No need for larger-than-life leaders, if you ask me. It’s not giants but normal human beings with all their faults leading this process. So far, so good.

So where are we now? Turkey is now heading for an early election. Insipid, I told you so. What is the earliest date for a government in Turkey to steer the country with some kind of an agenda? It cannot be earlier than March 2016, if you ask me. If we have an election as early as possible, it will be late November to early December. Anything later than that could easily take us to June 2016. 

On the foreign policy and security front, things look better. We had the agreement with the U.S. on the Syrian campaigns. The Kurdish process is going to be alive. Old actors once pushed aside are again becoming more prominent. However, we have no similar understanding when it comes to the economy. This September, someone has to prepare the new budget with economic parameters for 2016. No one knows who and how. So we are likely to have a Mickey Mouse budget for sure to steer the country. March to June 2016 also means that Erdem Başçı’s term as Central Bank governor will end. After Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, no additional credibility was built up; that is bad news, if you ask me. Until March and June, wait also for a few Fed actions.  

See the problem? The Turkish Lira has depreciated around 17 percent since the beginning of this year. When it is declared the day before there was to be no coalition government between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP), we saw a further 3 percent depreciation. It’s all due to the thickening fog, if you ask me.  An anchorless country sailing toward the eye of the storm with no one credible to steer the process is bad news.