Erdoğan’s AKP turning up pressure on CHP, HDP amid economic crisis
Turkey’s new presidential system, inaugurated on July 9, marked its third month yesterday. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan concluded the making of the new system with the appointments of 76 officials to nine councils that are tasked to contribute to the government’s policy making on various issues.
Apart from key foreign policy issues, an economic crisis and the ailing Turkish Lira were the main problems Erdoğan’s new government had to deal with in these last three months. The Turkish Lira has lost around 40 percent of its value since the beginning of this year, while annual inflation hit 24.5 percent, signaling a not so bright period ahead for the Turkish economy.
Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak is playing the crucial role in fighting against this economic turbulence through financial and economic measures, although results are yet to be seen. Furthermore, the economic downturn has started to deliver drastic impacts on the purchasing power of all economic classes of the society with no exception.
As can be recalled, since the beginning of these economic troubles Erdoğan and his government have preferred to accuse anonymous foreign powers of deliberately attacking the Turkish economy and the Turkish Lira. According to Erdoğan, these powers were trying to push Turkey into the arms of the IMF through the crisis.
This rhetoric of his contradicted itself after Albayrak announced that the U.S. international consultancy firm McKinsey was assigned to assist in the implementation of the government’s recently announced new economic program.
As expected, the deal with McKinsey prompted reactions from opposition parties as they have started to hit the government by drawing the attention on this inconsistency. In response to these criticisms, Albayrak slammed these dissident voices by accusing them of being either traitors or ignorant.
However, Albayrak’s categorization did not help the government escape strongly worded criticisms from mainly the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the İYİ (Good) Party. On Oct. 6, Erdoğan announced that his government cancelled the agreement with the U.S. firm in order not to give leverage to the opposition. It was rather a kind of confession that his government was backed into a corner.
What’s being observed in this process is in fact a déjà vu in regards to Turkish politics. With the motto of “The best defense is a good offense,” Erdoğan has re-launched the well-known attacks against opposition parties and their prominent officials.
In an address on the occasion of the Week of Mosques and Clerics, Erdoğan questioned CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s faith while repeating his accusations against CHP governments in the past. On Oct. 6, he targeted Turkey’s second President İsmet İnönü who had served as the CHP’s leader during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
He showed a picture of İnönü carrying an American flag in his hand to highlight that it was Turkey’s second president who had undermined Turkey’s independence and sovereignty. It was later revealed that the picture Erdoğan showed was distorted and that İnönü was also carrying the Turkish flag in his hand on the occasion of late U.S. Vice President Lyndon Johnson’s visit to Ankara in 1962.
In his address to his parliamentary group, Erdoğan accused the CHP of siding with terrorists and all other enemies of Turkey. The CHP’s spokesperson said the main opposition party will file a criminal complaint against the president over his accusations.
Again in the same period, pressure on the HDP’s local officials and the number of detentions of scores of people from southeastern provinces on charges of alleged links with the PKK or the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) have visibly increased. Erdoğan also vowed that they will appoint trustees to municipalities immediately if the elected mayor is proven to have links with terror organizations.
In the meantime, Erdoğan’s main political ally, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) chair Devlet Bahçeli had warned İYİ Party and its leader Meral Akşener after she harshly slammed the nationalist party. A group of MHP followers later organized a protest in front of Akşener’s house in Istanbul, marking a new first in Turkish politics.
As seen in all these cases, Turkey’s internal politics will get even more strained with the continuation of the economic crisis and approaching local elections. The People’s Alliance, formed by the AKP and the MHP, will likely continue to ramp up pressure on the opposition parties through the use of state means as well as a strong propaganda machine. Should the conditions of the state of the economy worsen, the already divided Turkish political environment will risk being further polarized in the coming period.