Erdoğan heralds new reforms for economy, judiciary, threatens with instability

Speaking at a party congress in the northwestern Tekirdağ province on Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the government was working on new economic policy, based on price, finance and macroeconomic stability, news website T24 reported.

The new reform period will also emphasise a human rights action plan, the president said.

“Turkey’s obligation to achieve its 2023 goals has become more necessary than ever before,” Erdoğan said, referring to his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) vision for Turkey’s centennial.

Originally announced in 2011, the 2023 goals included putting Turkey in the top 10 economies globally, raising the per capita income to $25,000, lowering unemployment to 5 percent and raising employment to 50 percent, among others.

Turkey’s per capita income was $9,042 in 2019, and $8,934 for the second quarter of 2020. In 2019, Turkey was the world’s 19th largest economy according to gross domestic product. Although there are objections to methodology, Turkey’s statistical institute announced unemployment as 13.4 percent in October, and youth unemployment as 25.9 percent.

The country is going through a period “at least as critical as what we went through a century ago,” he said. “All evil scenarios were put in motion.”

The AKP’s fate is integrated with Turkey, the president continued. “If AK Party loses, Turkey will fall into a pit of uncertainty, instability, and a political and financial yoke.”

Erdoğan called on domestic and foreign investors to “trust in our country and rapidly start new investments,” saying fundamental rights will be protected and property rights will be developed in the coming term.

“We know that one of the most important ways to establish a nurturing climate for investment and ensure growth, development, welfare and stability is the principle of the rule of law,” Erdoğan said, adding that a judicial reform package had passed the parliament last year.

The partial reform package released 90,000 inmates out of Turkey’s 300,000-strong prison population, including violent criminals but excluding political prisoners and those in pre-trial detention over politically-motivated charges. Some articles therein have raised concerns for possibly legitimising rendition and torture, giving Turkey’s intelligence service authority to remove inmates for interrogations for up to 14 days. Individuals facing terrorism charges under Turkey’s extensive anti-terror laws may also find it harder to appeal for parole under the new changes.

Erdoğan recently changed AKP’s deputy chairman for foreign relations, appointing to the position a former minister who was active during the peace process with the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), an armed group that has fought for Kurdish autonomy for four decades. Soon after, Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül said pre-trial detentions should be a last resort, stressing the importance of the rule of law, possibly signalling that the status of thousands of Kurds in prison over non-violent terrorism charges may be reviewed.

On Friday, during budget meetings in parliament, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said the solution process had ended due to terrorist attacks. Akar cited bombings and attacks in the Ankara train station, Istanbul airport, Suruç and Antep, all committed by the Islamic State (ISIS) or individuals connected to ISIS, and none by the PKK.

“There were some who objected to the solution process from within the AKP, from let’s say the right-wing,” Akar said. “No, this process was important.”

“The state showed all its compassion and patience, and made an invitation to end terrorism, sit and talk, resolve this issue. But what happened?” asked the minister. “They killed hundreds of people, that was their response.  After these massacres, on July 24, we struck from the air all terror targets that had been identified up to then, for 48 hours straight.”

The Suruç bombing of July 20, 2015, where 33 activists were killed in an ISIS suicide attack, was the only one that happened before the date Akar cited. The Ankara bombing occurred in October of that year, while the airport and a wedding party in Antep were attacked in 2016.