Turkey should release political prisoners, sign IMF deal – analyst

Turkey can improve its international standing during the COVID-19 outbreak by releasing political prisoners and making a prudent decision to sign a loan deal with the International Monetary Fund, Marc Pierini, a scholar and expert on Turkey, said on Carnegie Europe’s website.

Pierini said the early release of political prisoners “would help restore the country’s image in the West and would represent a goodwill gesture for future relations”.

He said that, by making use of special coronavirus-related financial programmes offered by the IMF, it would avoid having to ask for help at a later point under much more stringent terms. 

“But the likelihood of Turkey’s leadership adopting either of these measures is slim,” Pierini said.

Imprisoned political prisoners and journalists were left exempt from a law passed on April 13 meant to free around 90,000 inmates. Amnesty International called on Turkey to “do the right thing and immediately release those who are imprisoned solely for expressing their peaceful views . . . [and] also seriously consider releasing all those who are imprisoned pending trial.”

Meanwhile, Turkey’s fragile economy is at serious risk from the fallout of the coronavirus. Pierini said that Turkey would be particularly helped by coming to an agreement with the IMF to use its coronavirus emergency measures, which come with fewer conditions than its usual financial packages. 

However, on April 13, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan resoundingly ruled out striking an agreement with the IMF.

But Pierini said Turkey’s economic outlook was bleak. European demand for Turkish exports will be drastically reduced, the tourism industry will be hit hard, and Turkey’s reliance on foreign direct investment and short-term finance will be severely affected. The IMF estimates Turkey economy will contract by 5 percent.

“In Turkey, as almost everywhere else around the world, the post-pandemic short- and medium-term prospects are grim. But there are two areas where the pandemic offers Ankara an opportunity to amend policy choices and genuinely improve the country’s situation,” he said.