“A year from now, nobody will talk about the Turkish model”

The politics that has been able to achieve significant economic results in Turkey is doomed. The authoritarian regime of Erdogan has become an obstacle to further development. Erdogan did not understand this, and instead of restoring rule of law, he hunts his internal and external opponents based on trumped-up charges. The bad news is that his main opponent is no different than him.

Dani Rodrik, the world-renowned American-Turkish expert in Political Economy, has given an interview to alapblog.hu also about Turkey. (Please find the previous interview here.) His main message is that there might not be any positive scenarios for Turkey in the near future because the Turkish elite has caused irreversible harms by their self-interest, corruption, and narrow-mindedness. Rodrik believes that the political crisis would continue and even deepen.

The topic is relevant to us as the Turkish situation has an increasingly strong impact on all of the emerging markets. Directly or indirectly, it also affects the capital market of Hungary and the exchange rate of the Hungarian forint.

Zentai Péter: It was the government of your home country Turkey, lead by the charismatic and strong prime minister Recep Erdogan, that was able to achieve results in economic development, internal affairs, and foreign affairs over the last five or six years. This promising start seems to fall apart. Has this always been a possibility?

Dani Rodrik: First of all, about Turkey’s advantages. After the kemalist (Kemal Atatürk) revolution of the 1920s and 1930s, Western-type institutions of democracy were established in the country. They managed to separate the government from the religion and create democracy with parliament and political parties.

Now, about the disadvantages. In fact, this democracy has never been a truly realized. Every interest group that has come to power – whether it was the military, the ultra-secularists, or any other political party – has operated on the assumption that it would rule forever, and therefore, it would never have to worry about the rights and political liberties of opposition groups. They consolidated their power and created a system – through corruption mechanisms and controlling the media – that ensured that the minority and those who are excluded of power would never be a threat to their rule.

Those on power have made the same mistake again and again: they restrict democracy, do not involve the opposition in decision making, and ignore their rights. This “game” cannot last for eternity.

Hopefully, we will get to a point that all political actors realize – in their own best interests – that no matter how big their power is, they cannot do anything they want to; they cannot trample on the rights of their opposition.

Not just because they need to respect others’ opinions and protect others’ rights, but because they might not be on power forever. Things might change very quickly and they might end up in opposition.

The crisis is deepening, the investor confidence in Turkey is shaken, the stock market is down, and people are rising on the streets. In the meanwhile, a rival and similarly charismatic politician, Fethullah Gülen, is promoting an offensive against Erdogan from the United States. Who is the “good guy”?

Unfortunately, there is no “good guy”: both of them are dangerous. So there is no reason to be optimistic about Turkey – at least in the short term.
A battle is going on between the two groups; both of them are massively violating and dismantling the rule of law while expanding their own clientele – on the cost of the Turkish people. Erdogan carries out a purge of the police, ministers, and officials, he regards as “coup plotters” or Gülen sympathizers. The problem is that he is right to some extent, since the Gülenists could effectively impede the functioning of the state. However, Erdogan is not able to offer reliable evidence and acts on the basis of trumped-up charges. In the meantime, Gülen is launching an Islamist hate campaign, trying to intimidate people, and promising revenge. Similarly, he is right that Erdogan has established a thoroughly corrupt system.

So there are no positive actors on the political arena?

The best hope might be that most of the people will get fed up with these alternatives and will opt neither for Erdogan nor for Gülen. We can hope that people will support the hundreds of thousands of young, independent protesters who demonstrated against corruption and authoritarian tendencies in the Gezi Park last summer.

Anyone who visits the country can see the huge progress that Turkey has made. For a long time, its economy has grown more than that of any other country in the region. Large foreign investments flows, international trade, and globalization have increased… This is an obstacle to authoritarianism. If somebody wants to eliminate the fundamentals of rule of law, he automatically contributes to the collapse of the economy, doesn’t he?

We see/have seen a lot of countries where economic growth and successful globalization take place despite a politically quite repressive environment. In effect, Turkey is an example of this. However, it is confirmed again and again that these kinds of regimes fall sooner or later because they create internal strains and difficulties that put road blocks to further development at some point. In the end, all authoritarian regimes will hinder economic development, which leads to social tensions. Turkey has reached that point precisely now…
I can ensure you that a year from now Turkey is not going to be viewed as a successful country or as a successful economic model by anyone.