Behold Turkeynomics

Turkey’s election is certainly one to watch. It’s got a host of colourful characters with dark pasts and interesting nicknames, from Gollum to She-Wolf. Especially interesting, though, are the fascinating new economic theories being bandied about.

Now, inflation is a problem that is usually left to central banks to deal with independently. Central banks raise interest rates to reduce money supply and rein in inflation, and lower interest rates to increase money supply. But apparently, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, incumbent President, has different ideas. Erdogan’s masterstroke to deal with money flow problems isn’t demonetization (phew) but it’s something equaly counterintuitive.

How do you reduce inflation? Reduce interest rates, says Erdogan. And give me more control over the central bank.

Concerned investors reacted with a truly heartening show of support, immediately panic-selling the Turkish lira and sending it into a spiral. Perhaps Erdogan thought that this would help him gain some political capital – after all, blaming foreign entities has proven to be a great tool to keep dictators in power. Unfortunately, Meral Aksener, one of the frontrunners for the upcoming June election, has a solution: comedy.

Here’s one of her zingers, paraphrased: “Everything Erdogan touches turns to dust. He once called (Syrian President) Bashar Al-Assad ‘Brother Assad’. Well, I hope he never calls me ‘Brother Meral’.”

Her reaction to Erdogan’s brilliant plans for the economy? “Our country’s situation is like a bus on the edge of a cliff. And unfortunately, in the driver’s seat of this bus, there is a tired driver. It is irresponsible for this driver to insist on sitting in that seat.”

Oh, snap!

That said, Aksener isn’t nearly the frontrunner for the race, despite all the attention she’s received from Western media outlets amazed by the fact that a woman is running for office in increasingly conservative Turkey. Aksener’s history of overseeing deep state atrocities has led to a split in opposition unity, with the Pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, the second-largest party in the current Parliament, refusing to vote for her. The nationalist, anti-Erdogan alliance still has many obstacles to clear before it can get into the driver’s seat.

Another Iron Lady Rises

It seems that every other day, some or the other elderly authoritarian strongman strengthens his grip on power. A particularly egregious example is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, or as some sections of the Internet might call him, Gollum.

Gollum Erdogan has come a long way – from footballer to moderate democrat to neo-Ottoman and world-famous misogynist. He has overseen an increasingly hardline and nationalist foreign policy, shifting from pro-EU and pro-Kurdish peace to notably combative stances with both. He has also turned from Bashar Al-Assad’s “brother” to a deadly rival, supporting rebel forces in the Syrian Civil War. Finally, under his watch, Turkey has adopted a much more belligerent attitude towards Greece, with vessels clashing in the Aegean Sea and no peace deal in sight for Cyprus.

Domestically, Erdogan has crushed dissent and the free press, shifted Turkey from a parliamentary to a Presidential style of government, and adopted rather conservative social policies. He’s also made a name for himself internationally with a string of misogynistic statements, claiming that working women are “deficient” and insisting (on International Women’s Day, no less) that a woman is “above all else a mother“.

It’s quite interesting, therefore, that one of his rivals in the June 24 snap election is Meral Aksener, a veteran politician whose supporters describe her as a “she-wolf” and “iron lady”. Aksener has pulled no punches in her campaign, lampooning Erdogan for his misadventures in Syria, and has sworn to restore Turkey’s “malfunctioning democracy”.

Aksener, however, also has somewhat of a dark past. In the late 90s, as Interior Minister, she presided over a string of deep-state atrocities. She also comes from an unabashedly hard-right background, but is expected to attract secularist votes from parties disgruntled with the relatively Islamist Erdogan.

In order for Aksener to win, Erdogan will need to fail to capture an absolute majority in the first round of elections, in which six candidates are in the fray. If she gets through to the runoff, a consolidation of opposition voters could push her over the top and end his 15-year grip on power.

Whether that will result in Turkey becoming more liberal or democratic, however, remains to be seen.