According to Nozat Aqtay, an expert in Turkish affairs, the increasing influence of Berat Albayrak, Minister of Finance and son-in-law of the Turkish President, highlights imminent fluctuations in the political system of Turkey. Those fluctuations pave way for a new regime in the country, the main players of which is the family of the President.
Aqtay points out that during the past 20 years, the Turkish regime witnessed political fluctuations under the auspices of Erdogan, which represented radical turning points with Turkey turning from secular and partisan power to the only power of one party, only controlled by Erdogan and his family clan.
In 2016, Turkey witnessed radical amendments in the Turkish constitution, where the government’s system was changed from parliamentary to presidential. Those amendments coincided with assigning Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a president, which sparked sharp differences within the ruling party, led to major splits between its members, including former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and former Minister of Economy Ali Babacan.
Erdogan and first phases of political empire
Turning to Turkey’s modern history, Aqtay notes that the change in the government’s system started to occur since Erdogan assumed the post of prime minister in 2002: “Erdogan managed to eliminate his secular opponents and transformed the regime within 15 years from a purely secular to a religious one,” he explains.
Aqtay adds that Erdogan made the government limited to members of AKP by fueling nationalist and religious tendencies within Turkey, to benefit from the state of economic renaissance achieved during the first years of his rule, which was linked to the name of his former successor, Ahmet Davutoglu.
Until 2003, Turkey was suffering from a significant drop in the price of the lira against foreign currencies, which reached the point of issuing a banknote of one million liras, before the AKP government decided to delete six zeros from the currency in 2004, which contributed to the revive of Turkish economy and the improvement of living and commercial life, in addition to strengthening the Turkish lira again.
In this context, Aqtay explains that Erdogan relied on the long-term policy to make himself as the sole leader in Turkey, pointing out that he sought to benefit from the experience of his former comrades in order to consolidate the reformer’s image and initiate a war against his political opponents outside his party. This is the stage during which he worked to enhance the rule of AKP Party, and that was a prelude to make himself not only a president but also leader.
Commenting on Aqtay’s remarks, Asaad Katebi, a political researcher affirms that the first stage of consolidating the party’s rule was based on a combination of religious, national and communist theory of governance: “Erdogan was well aware of the political scene at that stage and he realized that he was unable to confront all sides simultaneously, prompting him to involve the party with its full strength in his war against secularists and political opponents within the parliament and military institutions, together with building his family empire.
Home enemies and elimination campaign
The second stage of building the political empire of the “Erdogan family” is linked to the elimination campaign within the party and government, excluding leaders whose voice is heard and who may be a stumbling block on the road leading to family power. The most prominent of those leaders were the party leader and Prime Minister Oglu and his deputy Babacan, in addition to his friend and former president, Abdullah Gul.
Aqtay indicates that this phase began with Erdogan’s presidency in 2014, controlling executive powers, in addition to stripping the prime minister of all his powers through the constitutional amendments of 2016.
Ahmed Abdul Muti, a political analyst, says that transition to the presidential system was necessary for Erdogan to reach the third stage of his political project by creating a class of family rule, pointing out that the parliamentary system was preventing those plans.
According to the analyst, the post of prime minister does not grant Erdogan the absolute power, in light of the presence of a higher authority represented by the president of the republic, even if it is an honorary authority.
In the same context, Abdul Muti points out that this phase was supported by the failed coup d’etat in the summer of 2016, which the Turkish president exploited to carry out widespread arrest campaign against army, security, judiciary, politics and media personnel.
Abdul Muti adds that the family rule project was the biggest beneficiary of that coup attempt, which actually represented the beginning of the third stage of family rule.
During the two years that followed the coup d’état, the Turkish authorities arrested tens of thousands of people on charges of belonging to the Fethullah Gulen organization, including officers, soldiers, university professors, jurists, judges and government employees, which sparked widespread international criticism and warnings of repressive policies in the country.
Son in Law is a Minister and hereditary hypotheses
According to the three analysts, the rise of Berat Albayrak, the husband of the president’s daughter, in the media and government, represents actual declaration of the establishment of family rule in Turkey. By this, they end the partisan life completely, turning Turkey officially into a fiefdom of the president and his family, excluding all other names from decision-making positions, even the leading ones in the AKP Party.
In 2018, the Turkish President issued a decision to appoint his son-in-law Albayrak as Minister of Finance in the AKP government, amid widespread criticism by the opposition, which said that Erdogan had begun to infanticide political life in Turkey.
Aqtay went beyond the issue of the son-in-law to the stage of succession of power, pointing out that according to the mentality in Turkey, it is likely that Erdogan will promote the theory of inheritance in advanced stages, especially since the president has two sons, one of whom may play a political role after the next elections in 2023, if the AKP succeeds.
Aktay also suggested that the Turkish arena would witness more political and military exclusions in the coming years, in favor of consolidating the power of the president’s family within the Turkish state institutions. That idea is supported by the political analyst Abdul Muti.
It is noteworthy that the Turkish opposition asked several times to sue the Minister of Finance, accusing him of being responsible for the collapse of the lira exchange rate, which recorded the lowest levels in 20 years during the past months. He is also accused of sponsoring corruption deals to support companies belonging to the president and members of his family.