the Blog Papers of Dr. Michael Sakbani; Economics, Finance and Politics

Dr. Michael Sakbani is a professor of economics and Finance at the Geneva campus of Webster-Europe. He is a senior international consultant to the UN system, European Union and Swiss banks. His career began at the State university of NY at Stoney Brook,then the Federal Reserve Bank of New York followed by UNCTAD where he was Director of the divisions of Economic Cooperation, Poverty Alleviation, and UNCTAD`s Special Programs. Published over 100 professional papers.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Turkish Democracy between the Failed Putschists and Erdogan`s crack-Down

           Turkish Democracy between the Failed Putschists and the
                                   Erdogan`s Crack- Downs

The failed "coup" of 15 July is a landmark in the 93-year history of the modern Turkish republic. After four coups by the Generals, claiming to save the civil state institutions and its secular orientation, this time it was a botched up job engineered by rather middle-level officers seeking to re-establish the Army`s trusteeship over the people by removing a legitimately elected Government with large public support.
Things have changed in Turkey and the Army `special role in safeguarding the state of Ataturk has become a part of a past long overtaken by events. This was demonstrated by the thousands of people who descended to the streets waving the flags of the Republic to say no to the coup even at the expense and peril of their safety. These were Turks of all political colors and all ethnic origins. Indeed, the unity across the political landscape in opposing the Army `s trusteeship was a remarkable political manifestation of the coming to maturity of the democracy of the Turkish republic.

Mr. Erdogan proclaimed these gains and then faced a critical fork on the road: to form some kind of an all-inclusive political Commission to look into the aftermath of the coup and proceed within the law in clearing up the mess, or to proceed on his own with his pre-prepared lists to take over the state and clear the scene of any real or potential opponents. Unfortunately, he chose the latter road, missing thereby his moment in history. 

In few hours and before any clear and transparent evidence, he accused the so called “parallel state”i.e. Mr. Gulen followers, of organizing the coup. He then initiated a massive dismissal of state functionaries in every aspect of the Turkish state and arrested thousands of security personnel. He threw in jail hundreds of journalists and closed about a hundred media outlets. And to top these deeds, he ordered that all academic deans and administrators submit their resignations. In a country celebrating the robustness of its democracy, such acts are a form of assassination of Democracy.

Mr. Erdogan led Turkey in his first 8 years of office into an economic social and political transformation of remarkable quality. His crowning achievements were the prosperity of the economy, the clipping of the Army dominance over the state and bringing the Turkish heartland, Anatolia, into political and economic empowerment. But as of three years ago, he started a "demarche" towards suppression of liberties, imprisonments of opponents and propagating fear and insecurity across the land. By the time of the "coup", Mr. Erdogan had become a polarizing figure and the Turkish society was split into half for and half against. In the various TV interviews he gives these days, he seems not able to understand that he is undermining the very foundation of Democracy: the right to differ and circumscribe the authority of the state and the majority. A disturbing aspect of his demeanor is the clear political paranoia of the man and his inability to understand and place in perspective this event in the context of his acts over the last three years.
The so called “parallel state” of Mr. Gulen, given its secretive nature, might have been behind the coup, but Mr. Erdogan would be mistaken to think it is the only participant or sympathizer; it would seem likely that a coalition of Gullanists and non Gullaniist officer were involved. The singularity of view displayed by Mr. Erdogan and his AKP  has polarised the Turkish bod-politics. This body politics needs détente for the AKP has ruled since 2014 without much regard for the views of its weak political opposition. It is rather inconceivable that Mr. Gulen has more than thirty thousand followers in every aspect of the Turkish state and another tens of thousands in civil life; this purge is simply an attempt to reorder a Turkey without opposition. 

Looking ahead, the massive purges will, in the short run, weaken the state and undermine its delivery of services, in particular, security, educational and judicial services. In the long run, it will increase the political polarization of Turkey and will undermine its political stability. And stability is critical for the continuation of investment inflows and for Tourism, two important pillars of the Turkish economy.
 The Turkish economy is no longer what it was; its rate of GDP growth is now running at about 3.5 per anum, more than one third less than the first decade of Mr. Erdogan`s. While the balance of payments has improved, thanks to the decline of oil prices, it has exhibited instability in the financial sub- balances. There are also threats of inflation abetted by the one-third decline in the exchange rate and a decline in investment outside the construction sector.

Mr. Erdogan is fighting Islamic terrorism, which he had helped before 2015, he faces internal polarization, the Kurdish PKK, Mr. Gulen subversions and internal civil tensions all at the same time. He also has opened a rift with Russia. A wise leader would reduce his list of enemies, and re-establish civil peace. This is still open if he follows the legal rules of pluralistic Democracy and guards against his authoritarian inclinations.

Michael Sakbani
Geneva, 21/7/2016