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The Writing on the Wall

The Writing on the Wall

The writing on the wall is now so clear that even Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can read it.

In the Book of Daniel King Belshazzar was warned by the writing of a man’s hand on the wall that he had been weighed in the balance and found wanting, but in Turkey the result of Sunday’s local elections is enough.

The ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) has lost Ankara as well as the coastal belt along the Aegean and in the southwest and the result in Istanbul,

irrespective of the outcome, clearly demonstrates that the opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party) has made serious inroads into what Erdoğan hitherto has considered his stronghold.

The faith of Turkey’s pro-government electorate in President Erdoğan’s Wirtschaftswunder has been shaken by inflation and the steep rise in the cost of living as well as growing unemployment, but the worst is yet to come.

Desperate attempts to shore up the lira have taken their toll, [1] and the central bank’s foreign currency reserves have fallen to a woeful $25 billion, which will be inadequate against the need to repay or refinance $150 billion of short-term debt within 12 months. By way of contrast, local foreign currency savings now amount to $165 billion, which could make a forced conversion into lira tempting.

Already five years ago economic analyst Jesse Colombo warned in Forbes that Turkey’s bubble economy would burst, and now [2] he has the dubious satisfaction of confirming that this is exactly what is  happening. How Turkey’s president and his economist son-in-law intend to deal with the situation is another matter, particularly as investor confidence has been shaken.

Also read:  Turkey Breaks With Iran and Russia #TurkeyRussia

But as of April 1 there will be no more government subsidized fruit and vegetables for sale in Istanbul and Ankara. When it comes to strucural reform, the need for reform in the agricultural sector is long overdue. Farming and grazing land has been converted into state housing, mines, power stations and roads with the result that a potentially rich country is now dependent on the import of meat and animal feed, and even potatoes and onions.

However, despite the setbacks on Sunday it would be unwise to expect President Erdoğan to relinquish his grip on Turkey, especially as the next elections are not scheduled until 2023, the anniversary of the founding of the Turkish republic.

[1] https://www.ft.com/content/98f6e662-5122-11e9-b401-8d9ef1626294

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/jessecolombo/2019/03/31/turkeys-bubble-is-bursting/#30edc8ca5103

About The Author

Robert Ellis

Robert Ellis is a regular commentator on Turkish affairs in the Danish and international press. Earlier he was advisor to the Turkey Assessment Group in the European Parliament and a Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute in New York.

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