President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is deliberately using an ongoing row with the United States over the detention of pastor Andrew Brunson to cover up his huge failure in the economy, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said, accusing the president of not taking necessary measures to stop the plunge of the Turkish lira despite seeing the crisis coming.
“Everybody knew difficulties in the Turkish economy could lead to the appreciation of the dollar to up as much as 7 Turkish lira. Newspapers wrote and economists warned about it. Why did he [Erdoğan] not take measures two months ago? It was he who decided to go to snap elections to save himself from the worsening economic conditions,” Kılıçdaroğlu told journalists at a meeting in Ankara on Thursday, as reported by the Hürriyet Daily News.
The crisis with the US over the continued detention of Brunson brought the economic crisis forward, Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding, “What he is doing is trying to cover up his failure in the economy by portraying the Brunson affair as a pretext for the currency crisis.”
The lira lost nearly 40 percent of its value against the US dollar in the last few weeks after US President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on the Turkish government for not releasing the pastor. Washington has warned that more sanctions are in the pipeline until the pastor is returned home. Brunson, who is currently under house arrest, is accused of aiding terrorist organizations.
Kılıçdaroğlu recalled that the debt Turkey must pay within a year is around $240 billion and that the Turkish economy suffers from the absence of necessary fiscal measures and structural moves.
“Do you think the lira will gain against the dollar if Brunson is released? Would the amount of Turkey’s debts decrease?” he said, stressing that the Turkish economy needs more serious action for a sound recovery.
“This government is the most imprudent government in Turkish history. They have swept the incoming economic crisis under the rug,” he added. “In fact, what we are truly facing is a political crisis. This political crisis has reflections on the economy and foreign exchange rates. Turkey is regarded as a party state under Erdoğan’s rule, in which all powers have been concentrated in the hands of one man.”
The Brunson affair is the result of the lack of rule of law, and similar crises with other countries can be repeated in the future if Turkey does not resolve this fundamental problem, Kılıçdaroğlu said, recalling earlier problems with Germany, France and Greece over the detention of their nationals.
“They [the Turkish government] released Deniz Yücel [a Turkish-German journalist imprisoned on espionage charges] upon German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s request. French citizens arrested in Turkey were released after [French President Emmanuel] Macron requested their release from Erdoğan. Now they have done the same for two Greek soldiers,” he recalled.
“You can no longer convince [foreign countries] when you talk about the rule of law in Turkey. And now, Trump simply wants his own citizen. On the Brunson case, we can see how Erdoğan and Trump are both being obstinate,” the CHP leader stated, adding, “Two acrobats are now trying to dance on the same rope.”
On recent positive statements from EU countries over Turkey’s crisis with the US, Kılıçdaroğlu said Turkey’s good ties with European countries and institutions were very important, but they need to be settled on a healthy foundation.
“We should bring EU standards to Turkey: Legislation on the fight against terror, rule of law, fundamental freedoms, and freedom of expression… We should amend our constitution in line with these standards,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
He said Erdoğan was now seeking friends because he feels cornered by the US administration’s aggressive policies on Turkey.