Predictions on course of Ankara politics in coming period
Three important developments occurred last week. On Sept. 22 and 23, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan engaged in a dialogue with almost all prominent European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen, signaling the re-installation of constructive communication channels in the aftermath of the withdrawal of Oruç Reis from the contested waters of the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey and Greece have both announced the resumption of the exploratory talks in the coming days in a bid to de-escalate tension in the region. These developments have been considered a suspension of the months-long tension with Greece.
Secondly, on Sept. 24, the Central Bank raised its policy rate by 200 basis points, in a surprise first rate hike since 2018. As well-known by all economists, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has long been staunchly opposing high interest rates, suggesting that it was the main reason for higher inflation rates.
That’s why the bankers and financial institutions have considered the last week’s hike a surprise. The Central Bank’s move is remarkable because it’s the first time that the bank has resorted to increasing the interest rates since Turkey shifted to the executive-presidential model in mid-2018.
In the face of an unstoppable fall of the Turkish Lira against the U.S dollar and euro, many experts were advising a radical change on the monetary policies, and last week’s moves were seen as the first steps taken in the right direction.
The question is now how long this policy will be in place and to what extent the Turkish government will tackle the existing problems under the basic principles of economics.
The third incident came on Sept. 25 as senior members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were detained on charges of inciting mass protests against the state in 2014 over ISIL attacks on Kobane in northern Syria.
Kars Mayor Ayhan Bilgen and former HDP lawmakers Sırrı Süreyya Önder, Altan Tan, Ayla Akat Ata, Nazmi Gür, Emine Ayna and Emine Beyza Üstün are among those who have been taken into custody, as the chief prosecutor in Ankara informed that 82 people were ordered to be prosecuted in the same case.
HDP officials have strongly reacted against the detentions as a politically motivated move, while recalling that Bilgen had already been prosecuted over the 2014 incidents and the state had to pay compensation to him upon a ruling by the Constitutional Court in 2017. Almost all the opposition parties have joined the HDP’s criticisms as they claimed the prosecution was carried out upon the government’s influence on justice.
In light of these three major developments, the course of Ankara politics may evolve on a different agenda, according to political commentators in the Turkish capital. First, they suggest that Turkey will no longer be the party to prolong the contention with Greece after securing the resumption of talks. Instead, it will seek a new engagement with the European powers.
This will eventually allow the government to return to domestic politics, especially with the start of the new legislative year on Oct. 1. The detention of the HDP members will likely have a fundamental weight on the government’s future attempts to weaken or break the opposition alliance.
The continued pressure on the HDP will surely resonate with the two main components of the Nation Alliance, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the İYİ (Good) Party which are already suffering minor internal arguments.
In this context, the main target seems to be the İYİ Party, a party with a strong nationalist configuration whose some members are not always happy with Chairwoman Meral Akşener’s show of sympathy for the imprisoned former leader of the HDP, Selahattin Demirtaş.
The question is now whether a new judicial process for banning the HDP would be in the pipeline in the coming period, a move that could sure cause a political earthquake in Turkey. Many of those who follow politics in Ankara suggest that such a move will come if the government seriously mulls holding snap elections, which will unlikely happen before 2022.