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Erdoğan sacks two vice chairmen at TurkStat

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has fired two vice chairmen at the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), which is at the center of an ongoing controversy concerning the reliability of the data it releases.

The decision to sack Umut Serhat İdman and Nurettin Kaya was published in the Official Gazette on Thursday.

Erdoğan’s move comes shortly after he removed Professor Erdal Dinçer from the helm of TurkStat in January and appointed Erhan Çetinkaya, a deputy chairperson at the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK), to the post.

Dinçer was fired after TurkStat released data showing that last year’s inflation hit a 19-year high of 36.1 percent.

The two dismissals are just the latest in a series of firings by Erdoğan, who has replaced the head of TurkStat four times since April 2019, leading to claims that he was not pleased with TurkStat figures when they were higher than his expectations.

In February the International Statistical Institute (ISI) and the International Association for Official Statistics (IAOS) released a joint written statement in which they expressed “deep concerns” over the dismissal of the TurkStat head, a move they said “undermined significantly” the institution’s credibility.

The statement, bearing the signatures of ISI President Stephen Penneck, IAOS President Misha Belkindas and Walter Radermacher, chair of the ISI Advisory Board on Ethics (ABE), said they were deeply concerned about the dismissal of Dinçer at a time when Turkey was experiencing high levels of inflation.

“There are repeated worries regarding the transparency of the appointment and dismissal procedures within TUIK [TurkStat], including in the post of its president, undermining significantly the institution’s credibility,” they said.

TurkStat has been receiving growing criticism from opposition parties and government skeptics for not releasing accurate figures for important statistics such as inflation and unemployment, instead presenting statistics that fail to reflect the market realities. The institute is accused of manipulating the numbers in order to mask the scale of the country’s economic deterioration.

Over the past several years, Turkey has been suffering from backsliding in its economy, with high inflation and unemployment as well as a poor human rights record. Erdoğan is criticized for mishandling the economy, emptying the state’s coffers and establishing one-man rule in the country where dissent is suppressed and opponents are jailed on politically motivated charges.

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