Erdogan: from hero to zero?

Author:Starr, Stephen
Position:Business/TURKEY - Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Over the past decade, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been lauded for restructuring and stabilising the country's economy, which in turn led to the emergence of an uncommon era of economic and political calm. But today the government's increasingly belligerent line against any and all criticism has angered many Turks and spooked the country's business interests, as well as foreign investors. Stephen Starr reports from Istanbul

IT WAS A SCANDAL NOT SEEN IN TURKEY SINCE BEFORE the AKP came to power 12 years ago.

On 17 December, a string of leading business figures and sons of AKP representatives were arrested by police in a country-wide raid following a huge graft investigation that involved senior police figures and members of the judiciary.

Five MPs resigned, including the ministers for environment, economy and the interior. The minister for environment, Erdogan Bayraktat, went as far as calling for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to step aside on live television. As the investigation unfolded, rumours circled that even the prime minister's son was targeted in the police investigation.

But within hours, the government struck back, sidelining, among others, Istanbul's chief of police. Prime Minister Erdogan immediately ordered the firing of dozens of police investigators involved in the graft investigation. Hundreds more were dismissed over the following weeks. The central core of Turkey's police force was gutted in the political backlash.

The arrests and consequent campaign against police officers point to a wider power struggle between Turkey's judiciary and police--thought in part to be influenced by the powerful exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, and the increasingly bellicose AKP.

To a degree, Turkey's political elite seems to have been damaged by the humiliation.

The AKP, which according to some polls commanded support from over 50% of the country's electorate even after last summer's anti-government protests, has been hit hard. A poll released by the SONAR research agency on 8 January found that support had fallen to 42% with chief opposition, the Republican People's Party (CHP), climbing to almost 30%, its highest public rating for two and a half years.

Shaky business

The AKP's success at the polls, which has seen it returned to power twice in 10 years, was grounded in its ability to turn around a failing economy a decade ago.

In 2000, interest rates stood at around 100%, making credit unavailable to most...

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