Poor economy motivates Putin and Erdoğan’s domestic oppression - analyst

Russia and Turkey’s poor economic performance is what motivates their two leaders’ resort to domestic oppression, Aykan Erdemir, Turkey program director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former member of the Turkish Parliament, said on Wednesday.

Erdemir, a former MP of the pro-secular Republican People's Party (CHP), said that deepening authoritarianism in Turkey and Russia was reflected in the Economist magazine’s Democracy Index. Russia is currently listed as an "authoritarian regime” and ranked as 124th among the 167 countries in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual democracy survey. Turkey is ranked as 104th and defined as a “hybrid regime” with substantial election irregularities and government pressure on the opposition.

The two countries “race to the bottom” on democratic issues was driven by “a lack of a solid economic performance”, Erdemir said.

In Turkey, he cited the examples of former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been in prison since 2016. As well as leading Turkish philanthropist and minority rights activist, Osman Kavala, who been held in solitary confinement in an Istanbul prison for over three years.

Both Turkey and Russia economies face significant structural weaknesses, Erdemir said. Russia is heavily dependent on hydrocarbons, which provide 40 percent of GDP and constitute over 60 percent of exports. Meanwhile, Turkey has traditionally relied on capital inflows from the West. But foreign investors have recently tended to shy away from the country, Erdemir said.

Neither the United States nor the European Union can afford to lose more time and energy by repeating efforts to appease Russia and Turkey, and should instead seek a united front against both countries, the former MP said.

“One thing is for sure: An effective push against Putin also requires reaching out to Turkey’s pro-democracy forces. The clock is ticking on that.”