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Turkish lira’s historic crash sparks protests, calls for AKP to resign

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Scores of people in Turkey took to the streets, calling on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to resign, after the lira plunged to a record low against the US dollar, losing 15 percent of its value on Tuesday.

Videos on social media showed police intervening in the protests, which started in Ankara and İstanbul in the evening and then spread to several other cities, with protestors accusing Erdoğan’s AKP, which has been ruling the country since 2002, of poor management of the economy.

Hundreds of students from Ankara’s Middle East Technical University marched in protest of the recent lira plunge, chanting “Government, resign,” before police intervened and told them they weren’t allowed to leave campus, according to local media reports.

Video footage shared on Twitter by journalist Burcu Yıldırım also showed people marching in the capital’s Çankaya district, chanting the same slogan and also facing intervention by the police.

Turkish Workers’ Party (TİP) members marched from İstanbul’s Karaköy district to the central bank headquarters in Beyoğlu and read a press statement, accusing Erdoğan of “knowingly driving the country into the abyss.”

Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) members also held a demonstration in Kadıköy, calling on the AKP government to resign. Resident clanged on pots and pans in a show of support for the protestors, local media reports said.

According to local media, police officers also detained Evrensel daily reporter Gözde Meydan while she was covering a protest in Kocaeli province, intervened in protests held in İzmir’s Buca district and erected barricades in Istanbul’s Taksim Square to prevent a possible demonstration from taking place there.

Meanwhile, notorious Turkish mafia boss Alaattin Çakıcı released a statement on social media threatening people staging the demonstrations.

Çakıcı, known for his ties to Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and election ally of the AKP government, warned the protestors “not to be provoked by” the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and international actors.

“The government isn’t [missing in action]. Trust in your government,” the mob boss said.

The Turkish currency has shed 45 percent of its value this year, becoming the world’s worst-performing currency in 2021.

The latest depreciation in the currency took place after the country’s central bank cut its policy rate last Thursday by 100 basis points to 15 percent, well below inflation of nearly 20 percent, under pressure from Erdoğan.

The bank has now slashed rates by 400 basis points since September in what many analysts say is a risky policy mistake. Société Générale said it would need to deliver an “emergency” hike as soon as next month.

Erdoğan is widely criticized for subscribing to the unorthodox belief that high interest rates cause high inflation instead of slowing it down.

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