Opponents find Erdoğan’s latest promise of reforms in economy, judiciary insincere

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Turkish President and leader of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during his party's parliamentary group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, Turkey on October 23, 2018. AFP PHOTOS

Opposition figures have expressed doubts over whether Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will deliver on his latest promise of a new wave of reforms in the country’s economy and judiciary that are expected to arrive soon.

Erdoğan last week announced that his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government was working on a new economic policy based on macroeconomic stability as part of a new period of reform that he said would also include a human rights action plan.

“We are starting a new period of reforms in the economy and judiciary in our country,” Erdoğan said, adding that his government would launch a campaign focusing on stability, growth and employment.

Opponents, however, call Erdoğan’s reform promise into question, considering Turkey’s past record on the rule of law, democracy, human rights and freedoms and management of the economy.

Ahmet Davutoğlu, a former AKP heavyweight who later parted ways with the party and established the rival Future Party (GP), said Erdoğan denying what he has been doing so far cannot be considered a reform project.

“You may have lost your memory, but the people of this nation haven’t. They remember all the crimes you’ve committed, all the false steps you’ve taken, every single person not appointed on merit, every single unlawful practice you’ve implemented,” Davutoğlu said, addressing the government.

“What happened to those [in power] who only yesterday were afraid of democracy and a state of law? You cannot cover it up. Your denial of who you are can’t be called reform.”

Davutoğlu also said a government does not get to apologize for what it has done in a state of law. “In democracies, the people in power who made a mess of the economy should resign.”

“They long ago forgot the voice of the people. That’s why it can only be a dream for them to remember democratic values, justice and the state of law,” the GP leader said, adding that the AKP should work on replacing the country’s current presidential system with a parliamentary model if they are really sincere about reforms.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said during his party’s group meeting that Erdoğan should reinstate some 130,000 civil servants in Turkey who were dismissed from their jobs as part of a massive purge that followed a 2016 coup attempt targeting his government.

“There are tens of thousands of purge victims in this country. The AKP has been carrying out a [policy of] civilian death towards those people. If you’re sincere about these reforms, you should reinstate them the first thing tomorrow morning,” the CHP leader said on Tuesday. 

“They know, as well as we do, that people have lost trust in the institution of justice in Turkey. It’s well known that Turkish judges and prosecutors cannot make any decisions without getting orders. So who is to take a step to fix all this? It’s you. What have you done so far? Nothing,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, addressing the ruling party.

“What’s interesting is that those who ruled this country for 18 years now say that there’s a problem with the implementation of justice and that they will solve it. They have ruined the judiciary and now say, 18 years later, that reform of the judiciary is needed. They should be ashamed, really.”

Promises of reform have become a recurring theme in the speeches of Erdoğan and members of his AKP since the sudden reshuffle of the country’s top economic team, including the resignation of Berat Albayrak, the finance minister and also Erdoğan’s son-in-law, on November 8.

Speaking at his party’s 1st Ordinary Sakarya Provincial Congress on Sunday, Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) leader Ali Babacan said it was irresponsible for the finance minister to resign at a time like this.

“This is not a simple resignation, it’s the collapse of a system, as we predicted. What does it mean to disappear all of a sudden with a small message of resignation [posted on social media] after leading the treasury for two years? This was such an irresponsible thing to do.”

“They’re now promising new reforms as if they’re not the ones who broke the law in the first place,” Babacan further said.

Challenging the ruling AKP, he added: “Then, just go ahead and do it. We call on the AKP to go back to acting within the law and to be more transparent. That’s how reforms should work.” 

The Turkish lira has lost about a third of its value this year and almost half of its value against the US dollar since May 2018, which made it among the worst performers in emerging markets.

However, it bounced back after the redesign of the country’s economic management team and the appointment of a new central bank governor and finance minister.

Lately, Erdoğan has employed a more conciliatory tone in his speeches directed at the financial market, similar to those he made in 2014 about reform of the Turkish economy.

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