As Erdogan’s “economic war” hits the cost of living, unrest intensifies in Turkey

The Turks were concerned this week about the lira plummeting and the soaring cost of living, and they got some amazing advice from members of the ruling party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Eat less.

“For example, under normal circumstances, we eat one or two kilograms of meat a month. Let’s eat half a kilogram,” Zulfu Demirbag said in a remark that made headlines on Tuesday. The exchange rate against the U.S. dollar fell by 15%. “If we buy two kilograms of tomatoes, we will buy two tomatoes,” he continued, echoing Erdogan’s narrative, calling on the public to join the ranks of resisting the dark forces trying to destroy Turkey.

This kind of conspiracy theory may still apply to Erdogan’s loyal supporters of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), who believe that the president is a powerful leader and is working hard to maintain Turkey’s legal status in the world order. But for most of the public, it is very thin.

Sinem Adar, an assistant at the Berlin Applied Turkey Research Center, said: “In any case, there is a core group of people who will vote for the party and Erdogan.” “But [AKP] Voters are increasingly dissatisfied with policies and the government. Almost all reliable polls show a steady decline since September. “

The Turks watched the lira depreciate and cut the benchmark interest rate for the third consecutive month under Erdogan’s order. Although the inflation rate officially reached 20% last month, the Turks fell into panic and confusion. Since the beginning of November, the lira has fallen by more than 20% against the U.S. dollar. After the President announced on Monday that the country was fighting an “economic independence war” similar to the country’s liberation struggle in the 1920s and hinted at further interest rate cuts, its downward spiral accelerated.

Technology company Apple stopped online sales in Turkey on Tuesday because the currency exchange rate against the US dollar fell below the 11, 12, and 13 thresholds, preventing manufacturers from pricing their products. “When I entered the elevator, the dollar was 11.55. When I went out, it was 12.15,” a young Istanbul lawyer said in a tweet that quickly became popular.

While focusing on the turmoil from afar, many international investors predict that Erdogan will eventually agree to a substantial interest rate hike to prevent currency depreciation, as he did during the last major currency crisis in the summer of 2018.

But Turkish observers doubt whether the president is dissatisfied with the currency plunge. “I don’t think this is the result of ignorance or’crazy’ actions just for religious belief,” said former Justice and Development Party member Ibrahim Turhan, who is now a member of the Secession Party. “In my opinion, this is a deliberate policy change.”

Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey for nearly 20 years, also made the same proposal. This week he believed that “a competitive exchange rate has opened the way for strong investment, production and employment.” The opposition party’s response was to accuse the president of “treacherous” because he was obviously indifferent to the increasing difficulties of a country that relied on imports, which meant that every drop in the lira would push up the cost of basic commodities.

Analysts want to know the extent to which the president, who established an early political success on the basis of the country’s prosperity, is willing to let the currency depreciate—and if, as some economists have warned, what will happen to his political future devaluation will lead to viciousness Inflation reaches 30% or more.

Erdogan and his ally, the leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahceli, rejected an increasing number of opposition calls for an early meeting scheduled for 2023. election.

Adar said: “Given that the alliance is rapidly weakening, I have been asking myself whether the alliance will survive until 2023.” “What if it collapses suddenly? What if the MHP or security agencies withdraw support for the ruling coalition?”

Others say that the pressure is more likely to come from defection within the ruling party. Can Selcuki, director of the Turkiye Raporu polling agency, said: “When the ship sinks, you don’t want to be an AKP MP, especially if you are not in the inner circle.”

Although life in a country that has experienced countless terrorist attacks, coup attempts, and multiple financial turmoil in the past six years, life is basically going on as usual this week, but there are some small signs that people are becoming more and more disturbed. Some gas stations lined up in anticipation of price increases. Small protests, some of which were organized by the Turkish Communist Party, led to the arrests of Istanbul and Ankara.

Selim Koru, an analyst at the Ankara think tank Tepav, said that if more people take to the streets, Erdogan will use force. “His supporters are now in the minority, and they are losing ground,” he said. “He will become more and more afraid of protesting.”

Some opposition voters believe that if it seems that efforts to strengthen his support through legal means have not yielded results, the Turkish president, who has adopted an increasingly authoritarian strategy in recent years, may seek to postpone the election or even cancel it altogether.

Members of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) expressed their concerns about the possible declaration of a state of emergency by the Turkish president at a meeting of the organization’s executive committee on Thursday.

A senior opposition official downplayed these concerns. But he added: “When we think about the government that governs this country, nothing is impossible.”

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