Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan May Run For Presidency
Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken a strong lead in municipal elections, months before the Presidential Election in August.
The most recent election reinforces his political position, in spite of mounting criticism of his authoritarian leadership and alleged corruption.
His Justice and Development Party (AKP) is currently maintains 48% of the vote. Three-time Prime Minister Erdogan might run for the Turkish Presidency in August.
The election was held in a heated environment. Civil unrest that started last spring is still sweeping the country. Thousands of Turks flocked to the streets to protest against Erdogan’s authoritarian drifts.
In December, an anti-corruption police operation began targeting the Prime Minister’s relatives triggered one of the most serious crises in Turkey since the military coup in 1997.
Erdogan’s position is more unstable than ever. Leaked audio recordings demonstrate his involvement in suspected corrupt activities. On the tapes, he can be heard telling his son how to launder large sums of money.
Ahmet Davutoglu, Foreign Affair Minister and Hakan Fidan, Chief of Turkey’s Intelligence Agency had a private talk about Syria in another sound recording.
In the recording, Fidan tells his counterpart that it is easy to create the conditions of a military conflict in Syria.
After stating that finding a justification isn’t a problem, he proposes to send four men in Syria to launch eight missiles toward a Turkish wasteland. The Turkish government is trying to divert the public attention with Syria military escalation.
He said: “The usual media are attacking us. What do they call it? Intolerance of freedoms? I don’t care who it is, I’m not listening. Even if the world stands up against us, I am obliged to take measure against every attack that threatens my nation’s security”.
Consequently, Erdogan decided to block Twitter and YouTube. Turkey joined a close list of countries that banned social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube (Eritrea, Vietnam, North Korea, Iran, and China are officially blocking one or more social media sites.) However, Turks can easily bypass the social media ban by using a private network provider.
Erdogan wants to prevent people from spreading anti-government messages. His government passed a law tightening control of the internet. Reporters Without Borders denounced this law as “an online censorship and monitoring tool.”
Turkey’s economic situation is another main concern of the population. Unlike many developed countries, Turkey experienced significant economic growth in the aftermath of the global economic crisis.
Erdogan’s government managed to attract foreign investors from Europe and emerging markets such as Russia and China.
Economic growth was mainly spurred by cheap foreign credit. Many countries invested in Turkey which promised higher returns than its richer European neighbors. Turkey’s GDP increased threefold since 2002.
However, investments dwindled when the U.S. Federal Reserve announced a reduction of its stimulus program last summer. As a consequence, Turkey’s growth slowed down and inflation rose to 7.4% in 2013. Turkey’s central bank then decided to increase the interest rates from 7.7% to 12%.
Erdogan blamed the bank for raising the interest rates. This move will likely hurt the Turkish economy as cash shortages will eventually shift the economic burden to the consumers. The IMF has issued that the Turkish economy is unstable and extremely vulnerable to economic forces beyond its borders. Turkey’s stock market lost a third of its value last year. One in five Turks lives below the poverty line. Only Mexico and Israel stand behind Turkey among the developed countries.
After a twelve year reign, Prime Minister Erdogan remains a highly controversial political figure. He’s acclaimed by some who thank him for the country’s economic boom while others depict him as an Islamic dictator. His electoral success will unlikely stop civil unrest. The politico-financial scandal already tarnished the end of his mandate. His next actions will determine the future of the country.