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Erdogan's Turkey: A Nation at a Political and Economic Crossroads

Introduction

Turkey is a country with a diverse population and rich cultural heritage. It is located in a strategic region at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. In recent years, Turkey has faced a number of political and economic challenges. The country is threatened by a growing authoritarianism under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, economic instability due to the galloping inflation, and a strained relationship with some of its traditional Western allies.

Erdogan has been accused of exploiting his authority and taking control over the central bank, the court of justice, the media and many other democratic institutions that were supposed to be independent. The country's foreign policy has been marked by tensions with the United States and Europe over issues such as human rights and security.

Furthermore, Turkey has been playing an important role as a mediator between Russia and the West in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. As a key NATO member and a regional power with strong ties to Russia, Turkey has sought to balance its strategic interests. However, critics have raised concerns that Turkey's mediation efforts could undermine NATO's collective defense and lead to a closer alignment with Moscow.

Looking ahead, Turkey faces some critical challenges, including ongoing economic instability and a presidential election in 2023 that will have significant implications for the country's future.

Erdogan's rise to power and consolidation of authority

Mr. Erdogan has been an important figure in Turkey’s politics since 2003 when he first became a prime minister. In 2014 he was elected for president for the first time and in 2018 after his second election he replaced the existing parliamentary system with a new presidential one, concentrating the whole political power in his hands.

Under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has been criticized for a series of controversial policies and actions, including crackdown on political opposition and media freedom. Erdogan's government has been accused of using anti-terrorism laws to silence critical voices, including journalists, academics, and human rights activists. Turkey has also been struggling with a growing polarization between secular and religious groups. Another pressing issue is the tensions between the government and the Kurdish minority in the country.

Erdogan's leadership has had significant implications for both Turkey's democracy and economy. On the one hand, Erdogan has been credited with presiding over a period of economic growth and development, particularly in the early years of his tenure. However, in recent years, Turkey has faced a number of economic challenges, including high inflation, a weakening currency, and a growing debt burden. Critics have pointed to Erdogan's increasing control over economic policy and his government's lack of transparency as contributing factors to these challenges.

Economic crisis and inflation in Turkey

Mr. Erdogan has excelled in ruling the country even though there were many corruption scandals and mass protests. He has even survived a violent attempted coup. He has done so through repression and censorship, but also through solid political instincts and his own charisma.

However, there still exists a constraint on Erdogan’s power and that is the economy. As the inflation peaked at 85% in the autumn before coming down to 64% in December, the interest rates have continued to go down. In addition, the property prices in Istanbul have shot up by 241% in just one year. This is a sign of the drastic increase in demand as people desperately try to save their savings.

The problem with inflation in Turkey keeps worsening due to the government’s policy. Mr. Erdogan believes that inflation can be stopped by making money cheaper and stimulating growth. The president’s administration claims that their policy makes Turkish goods more competitive on the market. Therefore, by stimulating domestic output, they expect to reduce inflation.

As expected, this has not been the case and even with 13% higher exports the inflation has not come down. The increase in imports by 34% has led to a huge current-account deficit of about 5% of GDP.

To support their economic theory the government has imposed new regulations. One of the measures aims to prevent companies holding foreign currency from taking out new loans, while another requires banks deemed to have inadequate lira deposits to purchase treasury bonds with a yield of 10%, which is significantly lower than the current rate of inflation.

Foreign policy and alliances

The unstable economic situation and the bizarre policies to sustain it, has put off many western investors. That has led Turkey in search of new partners in Asia and the Middle East.

In the early 2000s Turkey seemed to be determined to maintain close co-operation with its NATO allies. However, in recent years the relationship between Turkey and the West has been complicated.

Turkey is a very important NATO ally as it has the second largest army in the union. In addition, Turkey is a major barrier between Europe and illegal immigration. These strategic advantages have made the allies come to terms with Turkey’s two-faced foreign policy and its problems related to human rights and media freedom.

Ankara officials have stated that Turkey's positive relationship with Russia has enabled the country to act as a mediator in the Ukraine conflict. President Erdogan's successful efforts to convince Russia to lift its naval blockade on Ukraine have allowed for the resumption of grain exports by sea and facilitated the exchange of prisoners. However, some have criticized Turkey's use of mediation as a pretext for pursuing business deals and avoiding alignment with Western sanctions. In fact, criticizing the West is well accepted by religious voters, nationalists and even many leftists. Therefore, it is a powerful political strategy.

Upcoming presidential elections

A key turning point for Turkey will be the upcoming elections. Initially they were scheduled for June. However, there are speculations that with the current inflation, Mr. Erdogan will not be able to keep up the pre-election spending and will schedule the elections in advance in May.

The opposition in Turkey is also having a quite hard time. Having in mind that Turkish TV news channels are operating as government PR agencies while any objection on matters related to national security is considered equal to treason, the lack of critics of the president is understandable. There is, however, one problem with leaders such as Erdogan – the regimes they have built last only until they stay in office. Turkey is not a dictatorship and elections, even though often flawed, are one of the few channels left in the country through which people can oppose their leader. Elections in Turkey have never been stolen outright and are crucial for what remains of Turkey’s democracy.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Turkey's political and economic landscape has been dominated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's authoritarianism. He has concentrated power in his hands and led to a crackdown on political opposition and media freedom. Erdogan's leadership has also led to economic instability and high inflation, despite his government's attempts to stimulate growth. Turkey's strained relationship with some of its traditional Western allies has pushed it to seek new partnerships in Asia and the Middle East. While Turkey has played an important role as a mediator in the Ukraine conflict, its efforts have also been criticized for potentially undermining NATO's collective defense. The upcoming presidential election in 2023 will be a critical turning point for the country's future.