Turkish PM Yıldırım warns business sector to keep mouths shut

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has warned the head of Turkey’s leading business association over a statement critical of the latest government decree.

Yıldırım called up Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) Chairman Erol Bilecik and told him that he was defending him and his group, “because I like you” but that it was becoming increasingly difficult, according to a senior TÜSİAD source.

Some 4,000 TÜSİAD member companies employ 50 percent of those employed in the registered Turkish private sector outside agriculture and carry out 80 percent of Turkey’s foreign trade, according to a 2013 report by the group.

“The open-ended regulations contained in the new state of emergency decree could lead to consequences incompatible with the principles of a state of law,” the TÜSİAD press statement said.

“These regulations, which are suited to being used for different ends, may cause several problems that will affect the peace of society.”

The prime minister, the source said, had also called up the group to warn it in January this year after former chairperson Cansen Başaran-Symes gave a farewell speech calling on the government to end the state of emergency and focus on the goal of European Union membership.

Despite the crucial place its members play in the Turkish economy, the government showed it was unafraid to grapple with TÜSİAD in September 2015, when board member Memduh Boydak of conglomerate Boydak Holding was arrested on the basis of accusations that he and his family belonged to the Gülen movement.

Following the failed coup blamed on Gülen, his 34-company conglomerate was seized by the Turkish state to be sold off.

Tensions between the government and business world were heightened again this month when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that some businessmen were moving their assets abroad and that “these people are traitors,” Reuters said.