2. Turkey: «Let’s Leave NATO»
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To understand Turkey today, you have to get into the mindset of Turkey’s ruling Justice of Development Party (AKP). No news bulletin can convey the sense of siege – the feeling that the entire world is collaborating to destroy Turkey and its leadership – that emanates from the ruling party these days.
Meanwhile all indications are that Zarrab is taking a plea bargain, and might appear as a government witness, as opposed to a defendant, at the November 27 hearing, with possibly damaging revelations about state-owned Halkbank and senior officials in the Turkish government Ankara’s fear is that a damning verdict will result in the US Treasury slapping Halkbank and several other Turkish banks with hefty fines, rumored to be in the billions of dollars, triggering an earthquake in Turkey’s fragile financial markets.
It was possibly a big mistake for Erdogan and the Turkish government to defend Zarrab so publicly. Instead of burying the 2013 investigation entirely, Ankara should at least have allowed a trial on corruption allegations. After all, Turkey could have done what Iran did – find a scapegoat, start domestic proceedings about corruption, and wash its hands of the scheme.
But it’s too late for that now. All that Ankara can do – and is doing – is try to delegitimize the case, at least in the eyes of the Turkish public, as a foreign plot against Erdogan – hence the rhetoric about Western efforts to topple the regime.
But as the final court hearing nears, Reza Zarrab is all that Turks are talking about – on the air, in cafes, social media, or over family dinners. A direct result of that anxiety is reflected in the value of the Turkish lira, which has now depreciated to almost 4 lira per dollar, a sharp decline from roughly 3 Turkish lira to the dollar in early 2016. Internally, the Turkish government is deliberating what to do – whether to quietly accept the verdict while continuing the US-bashing for domestic audience, or defy the court decision and refuse to pay the penalties levied against Turkish banks.
None of this is good for the Turkish government or for Erdogan himself – who needs a resilient financial system and enough funds to support Turkey’s massive social security budget, infrastructure projects, and defence spending in the run up to the 2019 presidential election. He already seems to have started campaigning, two years ahead of the ballot, by firing mayors and party officials in cities where AKP is faring poorly, and appearing at a public opening nearly every day— with his speech peppered with anger at his western allies and broadcast live on all Turkish news networks.
With the Zarrab case hanging over his head, all Erdogan can do is shore up his domestic support and make sure that everyone in Turkey believes that the West is out to get him. This might cushion the domestic impact of the verdict, but it will not improve Turkey’s precarious economic situation – or its deepening problems with allies.
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at : eu