Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan gets the help of a bodyguard as he takes off his overcoat during his visit at the ‘La Alhambra’ in Granada, Spain, 13 January 2008 . CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
In Turkey, it seems, the chickens are coming home to roost. It has been a terrible few months for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey is isolated internationally, the economy continues to deteriorate, there are questions about Erdogan’s health, and his and the AKP’s poll numbers do not look good. To a variety of observers and the Turkish opposition, the AKP’s crack-up is coming.
The Republican People’s Party, the Good Party, and others are confident enough that they are advocating for an early election, making plans to ditch Erdogan’s executive presidency and return Turkey to its hybrid parliamentary-presidential system. This may be premature: an iron law of the AKP era has been to never count Erdogan out. Still, the situation for the president and his party looks bleak.
Among all of Turkey’s problems, it is the deteriorating economic situation that is the Turkish leader’s most serious predicament. As a result of Erdogan’s gross mismanagement, the lira has lost around 75 percent of its value against the dollar in the last decade, 45 percent in the past year, and 15 percent alone on Tuesday. It is true that Turkey—defying the odds and a global pandemic—grew its economy by 1.8 percent in 2020. But the overall economic picture for average Turks is grim: Inflation is running at 20 percent; unemployment is 14 percent; and the gap between wealthy and poor has increased. In response to the lira’s collapse, a number of major Turkish banks closed their online operations and people turned out in the streets to protest in parts of Ankara and Istanbul portending possible further and larger demonstrations.
One of the ways Erdogan has recently sought to lift his flagging political fortunes is to improve Turkey’s relations with its neighbors. It is a reversal from 2020 when, for domestic political purposes, the Turkish government embarked on an aggressive foreign policy, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean. Ankara has had some success breaking out of its isolation. The tone of its bilateral relations with the Saudi and Emirati governments has improved with several leadership phone calls and diplomatic visits, though it seems clear there is still no love lost between Turkey and the two Persian Gulf heavyweights.