By Tom Ellis
Driven by arrogance and his neo-Ottoman ambitions, Recep Tayyip Erdogan behaves as if Turkey is some sort of unbound superpower which is immune to criticism and which can exercise any economic policy it choses regardless of market reactions at home and abroad.
In his latest outburst over the weekend, the Turkish leader declared 10 Western ambassadors persona non grata for, well, daring to call for the release of activist Osman Kavala.
The Turkish strongman just cannot see he is only shooting himself in the foot.
Erdogan’s alliance with Nationalist Movement Party leader Devlet Bahceli has further complicated things for his country. The price is not only political and diplomatic; it’s also financial. It is not just the sanctions and Ankara’s problems with purchasing modern military equipment from the United States. It is also the negative reaction of financial markets.
Erdogan’s aggressive rhetoric has more than crossed the line.
In his latest outburst over the weekend, the Turkish leader declared 10 Western ambassadors (including the representatives of the US, France and five other EU states) persona non grata for, well, daring to call for the release of activist Osman Kavala. Kavala was arrested in the wake of Turkey’s 2016 coup attempt and has been held in prison since 2017 despite not having been convicted of a crime.
About a month ago, the Council of Europe called for the release of Kavala, warning that Turkey’s voting rights at the CoE would be suspended.
Tensions appeared to ease late Monday as Erdogan most likely wanted to avoid yet another thorn in prickly relations with the West ahead of the G20 Rome summit. Erdogan is keen to meet with US President Joe Biden and other Western leaders on the sidelines of the event.
In any case, his overall behavior combined with his insistence on interest rate cuts has plunged the Turkish currency to record lows and the lira has slumped to nearly 10 per US dollar.
Erdogan’s bid to style himself as a powerful leader pitted against the evil conspiracies of the West and Israel is part of a cynical campaign to muster domestic support ahead of presidential elections in 2023 which will also mark the centenary of the Turkish Republic. The bad news is that he has managed to rally the country’s opposition – a collection of parties with diverse ideological profiles – behind a common objective: the electoral defeat of Erdogan and the restoration of some basic democratic principles and respect for human rights.
Erdogan’s unpredictable and arrogant behavior has only resulted in Turkey’s political isolation and financial damage.