Tattered Turkish Economy Tests Includes a Powerful Erdogan

ISTANBUL – Hurt by the ban on his tobacco shop, Ozgur Akbus helped organize a demonstration in Istanbul last month, to protest against what he called unfair rules imposed on traders during the epidemic.

“There are many friends who are locked up,” he said in an interview. “And some are on the verge of suicide.”

Turks were badly affected with falling currency for two years and double-digit inflation as the epidemic hit in March. Nine months into Turkey as the second wave of the virus, there are signs that a large part of the population is beset by debt and increasingly starving.

A recent poll by Metropol Research, a respected polling organization, found that 25 percent of respondents said they could not meet their basic needs. Mr. Akbus said that he sees it daily among his customers.

“People are at the point of explosion,” he said.

For President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had attracted attention at home and abroad this year with aggressive foreign policy and military intervention, things suddenly surfaced in November.

The government admitted that it was understanding the extent of Turkey’s coronovirus outbreak by not recording heterogeneous cases, and new data revealed record infection levels in the country.

The Turkish lira has been depreciated by more than 30 percent against the dollar this year and the foreign exchange reserves are badly depleted. Moody’s Investor Service recently stated that with double-digit inflation, the country is now facing a balance of payments crisis.

The crisis comes as Mr. Erdogan is about to lose a powerful ally when President Trump steps down next month. Turkey already faces a Russian missile defense system for gas drilling in waters claimed by Russia and United States sanctions for procurement from the European Union. Mr. Trump was instrumental in removing the sanctions from Washington until this month.

Mr. Erdogan on his victory President Elect Joseph R. Biden worked quite slowly to congratulate Junior. Analysts believe the Biden administration is strict on Mr. Erdogan’s record of slipping on human rights and democratic standards.

To deal with Turkey’s buoyant economy, Mr. Erdogan has recently moved with a brutality that is usually carefully hidden. He appointed a new head of the Central Bank, and when Mr Erdogan’s finance minister, who is also clear his son-in-law and heir resigned, was surprised by the president accepting the resignation and replacing him.

The president then promised economic and judicial reforms, and even fanned the possibility of releasing political prisoners – something that some of his own party advocated for improving relations with Europe and the United States We do.

In mid-December, Mr. Erdogan announced a new support package to work with small businesses and merchants for three months. Last weekend he dropped into a bakery to do some shopping in support of traders.

But critics have described Mr. Erdogan’s various maneuvers as too short, too late.

The former finance minister, Barat Albrech, may have been a convenient scapegoat – little is known who has actually gone inside the Rashtrapati Bhavan – but a complete disappearance from grace and public life signals a more serious course reform. gives. The economic crisis and the consequences of Mr. Erdogan’s own fate seem to have become paramount.

Mehmat Ali Kulat, who has conducted Opinion Polls for political parties, including Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, said the President takes the Opinion Poll seriously.

“He especially pays attention to how things affect society,” Mr. Kulat said.

Recent opinion polls show Mr Erdogan’s AK party standing has fallen to its lowest level in 19 years, having been at the top of Turkish politics, hovering around 30 percent, according to Metropol. This figure suggests that the party’s alliance with the nationalist movement will fail to secure Mr. Erdogan the 50 percent of the vote needed to win the presidential election.

“The next elections are not a slam sting,” said Asli Adintasbas, a senior fellow at the European Council for Foreign Relations. “There is a good chance he will lose unless he broadens his coalition or manages to appeal to those who vote for the opposition.”

“He is less than 50 percent likely to be re-elected,” she said. “After all,” he said, the question is, “Is he smart enough?”

A survey by MetroPoll found that Mr. Erdogan’s own supporters and 63 percent of respondents overall believe that Turkey is in a worse, rather than better, direction.

Those figures are born out of what the aid organizations are seeing on the ground.

Hesar Fogo, founder of Deep Poverty Network, a group helping street traders and informal workers, said he had never seen such a crisis in Turkey in nearly 20 years of working to reduce urban poverty.

When the first lockdown began in March, he began receiving calls from people begging for help to feed their families. Street vendors and scrap collectors were particularly badly affected.

“When they say there is no food at home, it means that their neighbor has no food,” she said.

Their network is helping 2,500 families in Istanbul, with families helping donors buy groceries and diapers for children. His voice cracked as he described a mother who said that her baby had gone down a size in a diaper.

“A child should be underweight, not small,” said Ms. Fogo. Other women can no longer be breastfed because they lack food, he said, and more people are forced to fall prey to already scarce food in the trash.

“I’m 52 years old, and this is the biggest crisis ever,” she said.

Economic problems were preceded by an epidemic, but they blamed local and national governments for growing poverty and a lack of strategy for failing to improve social services.

Indeed, Mr. Erdogan made an economic coup after acquiring new powers under the new presidential system inaugurated in 2018, tightening his reins on the country, including the economy. International monitors cite changes that are one of the main reasons for their alarm.

“Turkey’s weak and deteriorating regime is a major credit weakness,” Moody’s said in a report this month, which has undermined our decision to lower Turkey’s ratings several notches since the introduction of the presidential system in mid-2018. . “

Mr. Akbus, a tobacco shopkeeper, told two elderly customers who came to his shop in a wealthy part of the capital Ankara one day last week how the skyrocketing inflation has affected people badly.

A woman asked if she could buy an egg. The other woman, who came out neatly, asked if she had any free bread. Shocked, he filled a bag for her.

“Retired people are in very bad condition,” he said. “What I’m hearing from people is ‘enough. We have this up to our throats, we can’t make money,’ and people between the ages of 70 and 80 are saying they are throwing themselves on the street.” ‘

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