By Adinah Brown
Back in April of this year, Turkey underwent a referendum that put Recep Tayyip Erdogan into the position of President with practically unlimited powers. The changes which demolished the legislature, established the autocratic rule of the nation by one man.
An ambitious achievement, it wasn’t achieved all that easily. Firstly, Erdogan had to spend the early part of his campaigning efforts ridiculing his NATO allies with the aim of stimulating nationalist sentiment. But if the NATO summit in May demonstrated anything, it’s that ‘Operation: Charm’em” didn’t go down all that well.
In an initial meeting with France’s newly elected Emmanuel Macron, Mr Erdogan was pressured to release a French photographer who’s been held captive in a Turkish deportation center. This was then follow up by Angela Merkel’s demand for the release of a German reporter whilst also insisting that Turkey allow German MPs to visit the Incirlik airbase, where 250 of Germany’s troops are posted. Pushing her point Ms Merkel threatened to withdraw German forces if the block is not lifted. The fact that Mr Erdogan accused Germany’s government of Nazi practices in his campaigning, undoubtedly made that conversation less than candid.
Any hopes for chumminess with America’s new administration have been dashed too. While Trump does have a tendency to get on rather well with autocratic leaders (perhaps it’s a personal aspiration?) and was the only Western leader to congratulate Erdogan on his referendum victory, conversation didn’t go down well when Erdogan came to visit this past May. Things started to go haywire when Turkish guards were caught on camera beating up Kurdish and Armenian demonstrators at the entrance of the Turkish Embassy, as a stone faced Mr Erdogan looked on. In a dressing down of the Turkish ambassador by America’s State Department, the ambassador audaciously excused the behavior by blaming Washington’s police force for failing to intervene. Then even more absurdly, America’s ambassador in Ankara was summoned by the Foreign Affairs Ministry for a whip-lashing lecture in crowd control.
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And that was all before Trump and Erdogan even had the chance to start talking. Mr Erdogan wanted Trump to stop resourcing the Kurdish militia in Syria in their war against IS. The militia group known as the YPG, is recognized as a terrorist group by Ankara, but just shortly before Trump had already pledged machine guns and armored vehicles to YPG. So instead, Erdogan was assured that America would back Turkish offences against Kurdish insurgents in Turkey and northern Iraq. But even that didn’t stop Turkish forces from bombing the militia’s positions in Syria, a move that is not likely to please Trump who would like pressure taken off the YPG whilst the campaign in Syria is waging.
Then of course there is that even longer standing gripe for Mr Trump to deport Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvanian cleric who masterminded the attempted coup against Turkey’s government last July. But since earlier plans have fallen flat, this does not appear to be an issue that Erdogan will have the means to push any time soon.
In response to the referendum, the Turkish lira spun into a whirlpool of volatility, and appeared to be as undecided as the nation, where the referendum was won by only 51% of the vote. But the fact that such dramatic changes rested in just one referendum, which was won by a small margin, does seem to be a recipe for political and economic instability.
Despite a small recovery since the election, the Lira has weakened significantly both against the Euro and the US dollar. The fallout has meant that the Turkish Lira has become increasingly unattractive for long term speculation and in the process has prevented Turkey from joining the European Union. But that’s a prospect that no longer appears to interest Turkey, well, just Erdogan really.
About the Author:
Adinah Brown is a professional writer who has worked in a wide range of industry settings, including corporate industry, government and non-government organizations. Within many of these positions, Adinah has provided skilled marketing and advertising services and is currently the Content Manager at Leverate.