Turkish opposition leader: Stop blaming failures on foreign powers

Turkey's autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and main opposition CHP's leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday to stop blaming his economic failures on the meddling of foreign powers.

The policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) have driven Turkey into an economic crisis, Kılıçdaroğlu said, stressing that the recent tension between the US and Turkey was “just a small piece of a wider problem.”

“The crisis was already there. It has nothing to do with the American pastor,” Kılıçdaroğlu said on Wednesday before a CHP assembly meeting.

Kılıçdaroğlu was referring to American pastor Andrew Brunson, whose arrest in Turkey has been at the heart of strained ties between the two NATO allies. In anger over Brunson’s arrest, US President Donald Trump threatened to slap “large sanctions” on Turkey in late July and doubled tariffs on Turkish imports. Trump’s move led to the Turkish lira to drop to historic lows against the greenback.

Kılıçdaroğlu underlined that the recent currency crisis in Turkey was the result of the AKP’s economic growth policies, criticizing President Erdoğan, who has been blaming “foreign powers” for attacking the Turkish economy.

Kılıçdaroğlu also accused the AKP government of years-long cronyism, saying big contracts were given specifically to pro-government businesses during their rule. “Was it foreign circles that told you to let all big contracts in US dollars?” he said and added: “You let contracts in dollars. Was it the foreign powers that told you to tell business owners to generate revenue in dollars?”

“Was it foreign powers that told you to make the state a guarantor for the pro-government businesses’ foreign debts from their $123 billion in projects? Was it foreign powers that told companies that have no revenue in foreign currencies to be indebted in a foreign currency?” he continued.

Kılıçdaroğlu urged the government to convene the Economic and Social Council of Turkey, which gathers together government, civil society and unions, to come up with an economic plan. “The council, which should be convened every three months, hasn’t met since 2009. It is a constitutional obligation,” he said.

The advisory body was founded in 2001 with the goal of forming an economic planning mechanism that includes government officials, bureaucracy, business circles and employer and labor unions. The council last held a meeting in 2009.

Kılıçdaroğlu also called for the reinstatement of the state of law, pointing to imprisoned journalists and rights activists such as Ahmet Altan and Osman Kavala as examples of abuse.

Fischer: Turkey now again ‘sick man of Europe’

Erdoğan’s Turkey is again becoming “the sick man of Europe” as the Ottoman Empire was in the 19th century, former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer wrote for opinion site Project Syndicate.

“Given its strategic location and economic and human potential, the country should be moving toward a brilliant twenty-first-century future. Instead, it is marching backward toward the nineteenth century, under the banner of nationalism and re-orientalization,” Fischer said and added, “Rather than embrace Western modernity, it is throwing in its lot with the Middle East and that region’s perpetual crises.”

Erdoğan had taken its place in the conflicts in the Middle East and has “become part of the problem in the region,” Fischer said.

However, Turkish stability was too important to Europe to abandon the country, as the continent’s security depended on Turkey protecting it from the millions of migrants and refugees who have fled there, he said.

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