Questions linger over possible reasons behind resignation of Turkey’s finance minister

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Speculation is rampant in the media regarding the reasons for the unexpected resignation on Sunday of Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who is also the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The minister cited health reasons in stepping down from his post; however, many think there are other factors that prompted Albayrak to quit his job. The silence of government officials and pro-government media outlets, which have so far failed to confirm or report on the minister’s resignation, has led to speculation about the actual reasons for his resignation.

According to a report in the Cumhuriyet newspaper on Monday, Albayrak was not informed about the appointment of Naci Ağbal, a former minister, as governor of the central bank and decided to resign in protest.

As made public in the Official Gazette on Saturday, Erdoğan dismissed the head of Turkey’s central bank, Murat Uysal, and replaced him with former finance minister Ağbal as the Turkish lira had hit record lows over the last few weeks. Uysal was just 16 months into his four-year term at the helm of the central bank.

“Albayrak had no prior information about Ağbal’s appointment as head of the central bank. A tense conversation took place between Albayrak and Erdoğan in the morning. However, I think Erdoğan will not accept his resignation. Albayrak also thinks so,” wrote Erdal Sağlam, a journalist from Cumhuriyet.  

Another possible reason for Albayrak’s resignation has been cited by Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a member of the Turkish Parliament from the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a prominent rights activist.

In a Twitter post, Gergerlioğlu said, based on information from his sources, Erdoğan forced Albayrak to resign because Bülent Arınç, a former Justice and Development Party (AKP) politician who is currently a member of the presidential higher advisory board, warned Erdoğan that 30-40 AKP deputies would resign from the party and join the the Deva Party if Albayrak did not hand in his resignation.

The Deva Party is a newly established opposition party headed by Ali Babacan, a former AKP politician who parted ways with the party due to conflicting views.

Albayrak has frequently been blamed for the deterioration of the Turkish economy as the lira’s decline in value, nearly 30 percent so far this year, has led to higher inflation via imports priced in hard currencies. Prices have also remained elevated due to an increase in borrowing and rising food prices, leading the country’s central bank to raise its year-end inflation forecast last week to 12.1 percent from 8.9 percent.

In a recent statement to a local TV station in Konya, Arınç said there were problems in the Turkish economy and that he had expressed his concerns to Albayrak.

“When the minister [Albayrak] denied the existence of these problems in the economy, describing them as ‘psychological,’ I objected. … We can all see that a problem exists. The important thing is not to deny its existence but to accept it and take the necessary steps to find a solution,” Arınç said.

Bekir Ağırdır, head of the Konda polling company, told the T24 news website that resignation of Albayrak and the way he made his resignation public, through a statement on his Instagram account, show that the division in the AKP ranks has even made its way to the presidential palace.

Considering the silence of the pro-government media about Albayrak’s resignation, Ağırdır said these media outlets are keeping their silence because they do not yet know which position they should take, whether they should support the resignation or object to it, because Erdoğan has not yet made his stance on the issue clear.

In the meantime, Albayrak’s resignation has led to mixed reactions among AKP deputies. Some deputies expressed the opinion that the final decision lies with Erdoğan, and they hope Albayrak will return to his job. However, other AKP deputies such as İstanbul deputy Ahmet Hamdi Çamlı in a vaguely worded tweet pointed to intra-party conflicts and how “acts of betrayal” can be harmful to the party.

Some political parties have also expressed uneasiness over the uncertainty surrounding Albayrak’s resignation, noting that conflicts within the AKP lead to financial loss for Turkey.

Faik Öztrak, party spokesperson and deputy chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said in a statement: “The country is in financial crisis. For hours, it has not been clear whether the finance minister resigned or not. Family conflicts are sinking our economy. Our country should not have to bear the caprices of a one-man regime.”

Ahmet Davutoğlu, a former AKP heavyweight who later parted with the party and established the rival Gelecek Party, tweeted on Sunday that Albayrak’s resignation and the developments following it make it necessary to change the system that has turned the Turkish state order into “tribal order.”

“That’s why we emphasize the importance of a strengthened parliamentary system,” said Davutoğlu.

Turkey switched from a parliamentary system of governance to a presidential system, which granted the president extensive powers, with a public referendum in 2017.

İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener called on President Erdoğan to accept Albayrak’s resignation, saying that allowing him to remain in office as finance minister would cost Erdoğan the presidency in the next election.

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