Turkey state-run bank appointments anger political opposition

The Turkish government’s hiring of a former Olympic wrestler and the head of a television watchdog to the boards of two state-run banks has angered the political opposition in the country.

Wrestler Hamza Yerlikaya, who won Olympic medals and world titles in the 1990s before becoming a senior adviser for sport to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was hired as a management board member at Vakıfbank , Turkey’s third-largest state-run bank, according to a stock exchange filing. No explanation was provided for the decision.

Meanwhile, Ebubekir Şahin, head of the Turkish broadcasting regulator, was appointed to the executive board of Halkbank, the second-biggest state-run lender.

“Being the best in one area does not mean you will be the best in another. State banks’ deposits will be in the hands of people who know nothing about the banking system,” Ahmet Davutoğlu, a former prime minister representing Erdoğan’s ruling party and now head of the Future Party (GP), a smaller opposition group, said at a news conference on Monday.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also criticised the appointments, asking the men to reject the decisions, as did the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), run by former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan.

“The appointment of people to the state bank boards on top of their current positions is against the principles of justice, competence and being fit for needs of the duty,” DEVA said in a statement on Tuesday, according to Sözcü newspaper. It called on both men to resign.