Turkey’s Lira in Free Fall – Erdogan Calls Snap Election (Pt 1/2)
In the coming economic crisis, combined with political repression under emergency rule, President Erdogan is expected to consolidate power without much opposition. We speak to the co-editor of Rupture Magazine
SHARMINI PERIES: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.
In Turkey, people are headed to a snap presidential and parliamentary election on June 24. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party, AKP, along with the electoral ally, the National Action Party, MHP, is expected to sweep into victory just prior to a looming economic crisis that many economists are predicting. On to talk about all of this with me is Ekrem Ekici. He is an independent researcher and political analyst based in Berlin. He is co-editor of a new online magazine called Rupture, and you can find it at RuptureMagazine.org. Ekrem, thanks for joining us today.
EKREM EKICI: Thank you.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Ekrem, let’s start off with why these snap elections are being called, and why these elections are being advanced from 2019 to now, and the conditions under which these elections are taking place.
EKREM EKICI: Last year and after 2017, there was a referendum in Turkey for changing the constitution, actually changing the regime of the entire country from a parliamentary system to a presidential system. And this change was going to take place in November 2019. And the one month ago, AKP, Erdogan announced the date for the snap election, for 24th of June. So this was rather unexpected news in Turkey. And with that, of course there’s a looming economic crisis coming. So the main answer for this, AKP is preparing for the, for this looming financial crisis, and they want to be in power. They would like to secure the power. While this is happening.
SHARMINI PERIES: Ekrem, tell us about the political issue of the 104 people that were sentence for being participants of the coup attempt on Erdogan a couple of years ago. Tell us about what has happened, and how this affects the election.
EKREM EKICI: The failed military coup happened in July 2016, and afterwards there was a process of mass trials of military personnel who took part in this, in this coup against Erdogan. And these people were accused of being members and militants of a terrorist organization, which is, which is led by Fetullah Gulen, a religious scholar who is in self-exile in the U.S. since, since over 20 years. So the interesting thing about this is this Fetullah Gulen movement in the economic field and social field was the main coalition partner of the AKP. Not as a political party, but as a social and economic force.
So the first rupture occurred between those two movements, AKP and Fetullah Gulen movements, in late 2011 and the beginning of 2012. And in the end of, in the end of 2013 AKP was accused of a mass corruption scandal. This operation was led by the police forces, which were tied to Gulen. And AKP somehow managed to survive this, Erdogan somehow managed to survive this, this judicial attempt against the government. And this time Gulen movement tried, with their forces in the military in 2016 July. And since then, since the coup was failed, and since Erdogan survived this coup as well, of course the forces must try again towards the end of 2016. And in the end, just a couple of weeks ago, 104 people were sentenced to life in prison, mostly among which, mostly the military personnel.
However, there is, there is another dimension of this issue. Because of course after the military coup, AKP declared a state of emergency in Turkey. It’s basically this country is ruled under, under state of emergency with executive orders. We are talking about suspension of the constitution, practically speaking. So AGP uses this process against all forms of opposition. For example, with those executive orders, thousands of people lost their jobs. The, the pretext of it was to be members, being a member or aiding terrorist organizations, and AKP is [inaudible]. So we’re talking about people losing their jobs, losing their social insurance, losing even their passports. So they’re stuck with no life in Turkey. Plus, another dimension of the suspensions of some [inaudible]. For example, under the state of emergency, the strikes of working-class, the strikes of workers in any sectors can be banned and [forbidden]. So this is effectively happening in Turkey as we speak. And if you look at the business circles, they’re quite content with this, with the situation.
SHARMINI PERIES: Ekrem, this raises the question of the HDP, the party of the Kurds, and where they are at in terms of this presidential election.
EKREM EKICI: Well, HDP is one of the major opposition in Turkey right now, as it was in the two, previous two elections. So, but this time the difference is the leader of the party and the presidential candidate of the party is in jail under the rule of emergency, as we say it. Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of HDP, and the president, presidential candidate, effectively is in jail since November 2016 with the same charge, as I mentioned before, being a member and aiding terrorist organizations who planned to overthrow the government and the constitution.
So HDP is going to the elections in these conditions. But the popular support around the party is growing increasingly, so we are expecting that they will also, they will pass the electoral threshold, which is 10 percent in Turkey, nationwide, and will become a major force in the Parliament in the next [inaudible].
SHARMINI PERIES: In terms of this economic crisis, how is it transpiring on the ground, and why is it happening?
EKREM EKICI: Well, this is mainly about the, this can be called a currency crisis for that, for the moment. Why? Because the main indicator of this crisis is the loss of value of Turkish lira against dollars, significantly. Last Wednesday, for example, Turkish lira lost 5 percent against, against U.S. dollars, which which was the highest point in the last decade. So how it is affecting the people on the ground in Turkey is this. Turkish economy is based, based on imports, not exports. So most of the companies in Turkey are indebted in foreign currencies, mainly U.S. dollars. So such a decline of Turkish lira, such a loss of one of Turkish lira against U.S. dollars, affecting, creating serious effect, serious insufferable losses in companies in Turkey, in terms of their financial, financial structure. So this would be also to layoffs, for example. Invest in Turkey, one of the largest number of companies laid off 3000 workers, and closed all operations, halted all operations in Turkey and moved to Morocco. So in time, as the crisis builds, I’m afraid we will see more examples like this.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right. With that we’ll leave segment one of this interview, and invite you back to join us for our conversation with Ekrem on the upcoming presidential elections in Turkey.