May 18 2018

Institutional decline rife in Erdoğan’s Turkey

Paranoia has fuelled institutional decline in Turkey as loyalists to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan become entrenched in important policy-making positions, wrote Bloomberg Turkey bureau chief Benjamin Harvey on Friday.

Turkey’s “golden years” of economic development and liberal reforms have been followed by divisive politics and increasing authoritarianism by the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) since environmental demonstrations developed into nationwide anti-government protests in 2013, wrote Harvey.

The power struggle between Erdoğan’s party and followers of Fethullah Gülen, an Islamist cleric resident in the United States, culminated in Gülen’s alleged involvement in the failed July 2016 coup attempt, and an ongoing period of emergency rule that has seen thousands of state workers jailed.

“The purges that followed decimated Turkey’s institutions and further strained relations with its Western partners, most notably Germany and the U.S.; each had citizens swept up and thrown in prison. Tens of thousands of Turks were jailed. Countless others lost their jobs. Hundreds of businesses were seized or shut down. The crackdown on the press and freedom of expression intensified,” wrote Harvey.

As a result of the coup attempt, Erdoğan has grown increasingly reliant on politicians “whose main qualifications for their jobs is loyalty” at the expense of more qualified and experienced options, he said.

Harvey quotes the assessment of an economist discussing a recent trip to Ankara where managers from two major investment companies were “shocked” at the shift in power toward Erdoğan loyalists: “Textbook institutional decline.”

With the Turkish economy hitting rocky ground, and expertise from seasoned hands such as Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek being sidelined in favour of Erdoğan's "unorthodox" economic ideas, this could prove a highly dangerous trend in Turkey's short term future.