Turkey’s state news channel TRT aired an hour-long interview with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday, but Erdoğan's interviewers failed to touch upon the elephant in the room, Turkey’s rapidly falling exchange rate.
On Wednesday morning, the lira fell to an all-time low of 4.92 against the dollar before rebounding to 4.56 after a 300-basis point interest rate hike by the central bank. The currency had started off 2018 at 3.78.
The timing is crucial because Turkey is preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24, and recent polls have suggested that voters are most concerned about Turkey’s economy.
During the interview, Erdoğan was quoted by pro-government Star newspaper as saying that his government would convert Istanbul’s present biggest airport into a park upon the opening of a new airport in the city in October this year.
Atatürk Airport on the European side of Istanbul received an entirely new main terminal building in 2000, and is the 11th busiest airport in the world. However, the new as-yet-unnamed airport that is to replace it will have a capacity of at least 150 million passengers a year, more than double that of Atatürk Airport.
“We are environmentalists,” said the president, who famously provoked demonstrations across the country in 2013 by trying to open up one of central Istanbul’s most prominent green spaces to construction.
“We are a government that has made its name by planting billions of trees. God willing, we will make a national garden in the airport’s place.”
He would also favour the conversion of the area presently occupied by the 19 Mayıs Stadium in Ankara into a park once a proposed new stadium was completed, he said.
However, Erdoğan made several references to no longer having the energy he had had in earlier campaigns, at one point saying “it would be wrong to say there’s no tiredness”.
At another point, he said that unlike before previous elections, he had not had time to scrutinise the names of all his party’s proposed parliamentarians.
However, he had had all of them screened to make sure they were not terror group members, he said.