The Turkish economy is an impressive one; with 7.4% economic growth and the creation of one million jobs, Turkey was the fastest growing G-20 economy in 2017. This growth exceeded all expectations including the IMF ones and surpassed the Chinese figures, hitting a new record. The socioeconomic measures showed rapid improvement as the income of Turkish citizens has doubled more than once during recent years. President Erdogan has paid great attention to improving the military industry infrastructure; Ankara spends around $18 billion on the defence budget annually and half of its equipment is made domestically. Records show a 18% increase in defence exports in 2017, reaching $1.65 billion, and President Erdogan aims to produce defence exports worth $25 billion by 2023.
In an attempt to secure the country’s democratic transition and to avoid being trapped in the critical zone, Mr.Erdogan accepted moving the planned elections of 2019 forward by more than a year. However, the devil was wearing an election tag, and the economic situation deteriorated dramatically. The Turkish Lira hit its lowest point in eight years, recording 4.39 against the Dollar and resulting in a 13% loss. Speculations about the ability of the central bank and the government to manage the crisis have been discussed in regional and global media on a daily basis. The talk about the economic voting in the forthcoming elections on the 24 June occupies all the news headlines.
Looking Behind the Charts:
The conventional wisdom will be that we are facing an economic tragedy moving at a rocket speed heading towards its target on the election day to hit Erdogan. Nevertheless, looking behind the charts, and digging deep in the story, several questions remain unanswered. Are we witnessing a natural economic disaster that follows the rule that success breeds active inertia and active inertia breeds failure? Or are we watching another planned orchestrated crisis designed to remove President Erdogan via reinventing the 2016 failing coup attempt in a new economic vehicle?
To answer these questions, we should explore the Turkish case in the context of its geopolitical relations, its role in the region, economic rivals, the nature of ties and diplomatic relations with major players in the region.
The Invisible Hands: Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel
Economic collapse is not a product of a few weeks and not in the case of the strong Turkish economy. The ongoing tension with other regimes in the region, in addition to the forecasted conflict of interest, offers a better explanation of the foggy picture.
I argue that Turkey represents the only remaining form of the democratic transition state in the region. In Egypt, a similar orchestrated economic crisis involved a fuel shortage story and faked inflation among other tools, which were used to remove the first freely elected President in 2013 via a military coup led by field-marshal Abdelfattah AlSisi, the current Egyptian President. Not surprisingly, UAE, Israel and Saudi Arabia (the same group in the Turkish case) were the main supporters of the Egyptian coup. Injected billions of dollars in the Egyptian economy, they attempted to support the Sisi regime after the successful coup. The two Gulf states saw the new-born democratic Egypt as a direct threat to their Monarchies. Israel considered the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as a critical threat being unable to maintain control over the elected government.
In contrast, Erdogan had close ties with Morsi, stands firmly against the coup and hosts thousands of Egyptian opposition groups and members of the former government.
On June 5, 2017, the same invisible hand decided to cut ties and blockaded Qatar based on acquisitions that Qatar was supporting the free press, Egyptian opposition, and Hamas. President Erdgoan has been a major supporter of Doha on this front and all acquisitions were rejected by the international community.
In the same context, the tension between Ankara and Israel goes back to the Davos incident in 2009, when Erdogan stormed out of a World Economic Forum debate following a clash with the Israeli president over Israel’s offensive against Gaza. Bilateral relations deteriorated when Israeli naval commandos intercepted the Turkish ship Marmara en route to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza. That incident led to the deaths of eight Turks and one Turkish-American. Recently, the picture turned black because Erdogan is the only leader in the region who clearly stood against the announcement of Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel, expelled the Israeli ambassador from Ankara and calling Israel a terrorist state over the killing of civilians in Gaza.
In recent years, the charismatic president has become a symbolic leader across the Arabic and Islamic world; he has even been called Sultan Erdogan among people in the Arabic and Islamic streets. Turkish cinema is significant in magnifying this leadership role and has brought the legacy of the Ottoman Empire to the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of people around the world. The leaders of the invisible hand’s group lack this Erdoganian-charismatic style and consider it a real threat to their crowns and regimes. Furthermore, Erdogan’s futuristic vision of Turkey in 2023 following the end of the Lausanne treaty, controlling the channel linking between the two seas Black and Marmara and beginning oil exploration and drilling, is another nightmare for the invisible hand’s group and some countries in the west.
Voting the Future on June 24:
In the view of the above, there are no doubts that Erdogan’s vision and philosophy represent a significant threat to the invisible hand’s group in addition to some western countries on both the political and economic fronts. It is my argument that these countries will endeavour to reinvent a new economic coup on the way to the June 24 elections, as confirmed by the Turkish Prime Minister in his recent TV interview.
However, the answer to the futuristic question about where Turkey is heading remains in the hands of the Turkish people who will vote for their next president soon. The choice is whether to continue Erdogan’s remarkable economic and power journey heading toward 2023 or to fall into the trap of manipulated politics, political instability, regional and global influence, in the best-case scenario landing on a toxic economic zone similar to the one of Egypt.