The economy is the most important challenge ahead. Before the outbreak’s influence, the government was boasting a 4.5 percent growth in the first quarter of the year (instead of the expected 6 percent). This, however, wasn’t convincing enough to the investors and suppliers. The real scale of unemployment will become apparent once workplaces reopen. There are also concerns about serious employments contractions in the service industry, notably in the construction, tourism, and transportation sectors. There is no sign yet that a proposal for economic regulation will come. We only know of the proposal to seize CHP shares at İş Bank. And there are some loan packages, meaning one thing only: more debt.
Several issues link the problem in the economy to foreign policy. The S-400 issue is the most prominent. Erdoğan postponed the “activation”, that is, the inclusion of the Russian missiles in the Turkish Armed forces system, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump expects from President Erdoğan a commitment to never use S-400s, threatening Turkey with economic sanctions. This approach not only hinders Turkey’s national sovereignty but may also block expected investments from the European Union. And it’s a mystery what Trump, who has launched an election campaign amid intensifying racial discrimination and police violence, as well as unrest in the US, will do to help Erdoğan in this regard. On the other hand, with the influence of the Syrian policy thus far, alongside the US, Russia, too, has become our southern neighbor. Photos of battleships bearing Russian flags are being published in the media. Turkey’s intervention in Libya has somewhat eased the situation but it’s still critical.
Yet, following Brexit, this is just the right time for Turkey to seek new ground for relations with the EU, which suffered from a heavy COVID shock. Though it’s apparent that certain circles in Turkey don’t want this to happen, which is apparent through their provocative actions. For the rapprochement with the EU, which is crucial for Turkey’s economy, democratic rights mustn’t shrink: they must expand.
Discomfort within the AKP
As mentioned above, Kılıçdaroğlu must walk slow and steady, careful not to disrupt a delicate triple balance. Erdoğan is in a similar situation. He has to deal with a web of problems in the economy and foreign policy, all intertwined. He also has to maintain the Party-cabinet-Presidency balance, and avoid angering his MHP partner in the meantime. With the opening of the Parliament, Erdoğan wants to alter a few rules and regulations before going into the AKP Congress. And never mind the flashy statements. There is a sense of discomfort stemming from the fact that a narrow team within the Presidency carries out and controls all AKP-related political actions. Many also find it unpleasant that deputies can no longer influence the government’s executive powers, due to the Presidential Government System. Aside from a few ministers, the others in the cabinet don’t count for much. Let’s put aside Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, he currently stands out because of the fight against the epidemic. The influential figures in the cabinet are, in the order of their first names: Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak (who is also the President’s son-in-law), National Defense Minister Hukusi Akar, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu whose popularity soars each passing day. National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) Director Hakan Fidan also has a certain bearing. But we can observe something stirring before the AKP Congress. As you know, AKP members aren’t without options anymore. Ali Babacan and Ahmet Davutoğlu, with their new parties, are ready to greet them with open arms.
To protect the delicate balances, Erdoğan may try to consolidate his power by restricting liberties (including freedom of the press and expression) a little more; this is a common mistake that many governments have fallen for before. Moreover, in doing this, he may take some inspiration from the oppressive environment engulfing the US and the EU. It would be wrong but there is a possibility.
The legal regulations that will be brought to the agenda of the Parliament as of 2 June are therefore important.
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