by instituDe, published on 15 January 2024


“Erdogan's blackmailing diplomacy”, The Institute for Diplomacy and Economy

Erdogan's blackmailing diplomacy led to a loss of credibility and a lack of trust about Turkey. While Turkey's demands were mostly rejected, it eventually gave up its leverage occasionally with modest gains. However, Ankara could have achieved these modest gains through friendly relations without harming Turkey's diplomatic posture. This harmful and useless tactic has also caused some strategic losses. Turkey's allies are more reluctant to provide strategic weapons. To decrease its reliance on Turkey, the US hedges its strategic partnership by investing in Greece and other regional actors. We here collected some samples of Turkey's blackmailing diplomacy and its consequences:


"Turkey’s Erdogan experience holds lessons for the US on Trump" by Gonul Tol, Financial Times

In February, the US Supreme Court will hear the case and might bar Trump from the ballot. Many think that it should. But while legitimate fears abound that a second Trump presidency could irreparably destroy American democracy, an unlikely case — that of Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — offers a cautionary tale as to how far one should go to stop a wannabe autocrat.

Before taking the reins of the country, Erdoğan famously said that democracy was a tram you get off when you reach your destination. He did, indeed, get off the democracy tram once he had accumulated enough power. It was not just people like me who continued to vote for him despite the early red flags that paved the way for the country’s authoritarian turn. His opponents also helped him get there.

Populists do not come out of nowhere. Lack of public trust in democratic institutions helps fuel their rise. Populists fan that frustration by framing institutions of liberal democracy, such as courts, as creations of a self-serving corrupt elite and cast themselves as their victim.

Turkey and the US are surely different. But similar contexts have given rise to their populists: polarisation and distrust in democratic institutions. Erdoğan exploited these to turn Turkey’s imperfect democracy into an autocracy. Imagining a similar scenario in the US is not as far-fetched as it once was. The US Supreme Court could certainly solve America’s Trump problem by disqualifying him from the ballot. That, however, would only strengthen the very forces that paved the way for his rise in the first place, no matter how legally sound the court’s decision might be. For who can guarantee there will not be another Trump?

HRW Report: Turkey's 2023 elections cement authoritarian order

In the World Report 2024, Human Rights Watch (HRW) highlighted that the May 2023 re-election of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the victory of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in parliamentary elections solidified an authoritarian order in Turkey. The report emphasized that this regime routinely and arbitrarily punishes perceived critics and political opponents, maintaining strict control over the media and courts.

During the election year, HRW noted that the Erdoğan government exercised a tight grip on the media, drawing criticism from international election observers who pointed out biased media coverage favoring the ruling coalition, particularly by public broadcasters like TRT, accused of supporting the People’s Alliance.

The report also shed light on how provincial authorities in Turkey frequently banned protests by government-critical groups, sometimes going against domestic court rulings. Demonstrators, especially those associated with leftist or Kurdish groups, faced forceful detention by the police.

HRW further highlighted Turkey's escalated military campaign against the outlawed PKK in northern Iraq and northeast Syria in 2023, resulting in substantial damage to critical infrastructure and disrupting water and electricity supplies for millions of people. Additionally, the report noted Turkey's continued control over territories in northern Syria.


Istanbul Mayor Imamoglu sees local elections as a message for democracy and justice

In an interview with Reuters on January 8, Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu expressed that the upcoming local elections in March will convey a message to President Tayyip Erdogan's government regarding Turkish people's desire for "democracy, justice, and the rule of law." 

However, Imamoglu acknowledged the increased difficulty of his re-election bid compared to his initial victory five years ago, as opposition parties no longer ally against Erdogan's ruling AK Party (AKP). Despite this, he conveyed confidence in defeating the newly-named AKP challenger, Murat Kurum, a former minister. Imamoglu believes he can secure votes from both other opposition parties and the AKP. 

Additionally, he expressed being "not concerned at all" about a 2.5-year prison sentence and political ban handed down by a court for insulting public officials after his 2019 election win.

President Erdogan and Justice Minister share photos revealing MİT officials' identities

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc faced criticism for potentially exposing the identities of high-ranking National Intelligence Service (MİT) officials due to photos shared on their respective social media accounts. 

The images, taken during the 97th-anniversary celebrations of MİT, were posted on Erdogan's official account, revealing the faces of MİT officials. Similar posts were also shared by Justice Minister Tunc, clearly identifying MİT members. The photos were later removed.

Main opposition faces criticism for renominating Hatay Mayor

The main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), faces strong criticism for renominating Lutfu Savas as the mayoral candidate for the southern province of Hatay. Savas, the incumbent mayor, was partially held responsible for extensive damage caused by two major earthquakes in the city last year. CHP spokesperson Deniz Yucel affirmed on January 11 that the party is committed in its decision despite the backlash.

CHP leader Ozel had previously stated that every administrator in the city bore responsibility for the destruction in Hatay. The change in Ozel’s stance regarding the mayor's renomination has raised questions among many.

On January 12, Ozel talked about Hatay Mayor Savas' candidacy in an interview with journalist Ismail Saymaz from the daily Sozcu. Ozel mentioned Savas' popularity in rural Hatay, stating, 'We projected a loss whenever we replaced him. We tried very hard, ran four polls, and could find no alternative,' explaining the party's nomination process for Savas.

Savas also faced criticism for supporting a contractor who was detained while attempting to flee the country after his luxury buildings collapsed during the February earthquakes.

CHP cancels Ankara rally after tragic loss of 9 Turkish soldier 

Ozgur Ozel, the chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), announced the cancellation of a planned rally in Ankara on January 14. The decision, shared via Ozel's social media account after an extraordinary meeting of the party’s Central Executive Committee (MYK), was attributed to the news of nine Turkish soldiers killed in northern Iraq on January 12. 

The rally aimed to protest the defiance of top court rulings in the case of jailed lawmaker Can Atalay.


Central Bank's net foreign exchange position plummets by $182 billion over a decade 

Hakan Kara, a former chief economist at the Central Bank (CBRT), calculated the CBRT's net foreign exchange position based on data from the CBRT and the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK).

The net foreign exchange position reflects the foreign currency capital of the CBRT and is determined by subtracting foreign currency debts from foreign currency assets of the CBRT.

According to Kara, the CBRT's net foreign exchange position as of the end of 2023 was -$132 billion. This calculation includes data on currency-protected deposits (KKM). A decade ago, this figure stood at $50 billion.

Kara also pointed out that the deterioration in the FX position has recently shown signs of improvement: "Over the last six months, the foreign exchange position, including KKM, has improved by $62 billion. If this trend continues, reserves are expected to normalize within two years.”

Turkey nears completion of crypto asset regulations

Turkey's Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek announced on January 10 that the country's regulations for crypto assets are in their final stages. Simsek said the goal is to minimize trading risks and remove Turkey from the international financial crime watchdog's 'grey list.' 

Simsek also revealed that crypto asset trading platforms will be licensed by the Capital Markets Board (CMB) and will need to adhere to minimum operating standards, encompassing conditions for founders and managers, organizational obligations, and capital requirements.

Simsek highlighted that the initial regulation draft will focus on authorizing the Capital Markets Board for crypto asset offerings and custody services, while taxation will not be the primary concern.

Central Bank Chief affirms commitment to disinflation in talks with investors

On January 11, Turkey's central bank chief, Hafize Gaye Erkan, assured investors in New York of the country's commitment to achieving disinflation. According to sources, during presentations to foreign investors, Erkan expressed determination to complete the monetary policy tightening cycle at the earliest opportunity.

Erkan also informed investors that Turkey will prudently continue to build foreign exchange reserves, supported by an acceleration of capital inflows.

Data from the Institute of International Finance, released on January 11, revealed that foreign investors increased their exposure to debt and equity portfolios in Turkey by $5.4 billion in the last two months of the previous year, marking the largest such inflow in the past five years."

Moody's upgrades Turkey's outlook to positive

On January 12, Moody's upgraded Turkey's outlook from stable to positive, attributing the change to a decisive shift in the country's monetary policy. The agency opted to maintain Turkey's ratings at "B3." 

According to Moody's, this policy adjustment enhances the likelihood of reducing Turkey's currently elevated inflation rates to more sustainable levels. Moody's also noted that, while headline inflation may experience further increases in the short term, there are indications of a shift in inflation dynamics, suggesting that monetary policy is regaining credibility and effectiveness in addressing economic challenges. 


Top court annuls law article allowing Government to restrict online content

On January 10, Turkey’s Constitutional Court annulled a contentious provision of Law No. 5651, which empowered the government to remove or limit access to online content under the pretext of 'violating personal rights.'

The Court ruled that the authority granted to Turkey’s Telecommunications Authority (BTK) with Article 9 of the law was unconstitutional. The ruling underscored that such content restrictions significantly violate fundamental freedom of expression and the press.

The ruling is set to take effect in nine months.

Chief Justice Arslan criticizes Supreme Court of Appeals for non-compliance with Constitutional Court rulings

On January 12, Chief Justice Zuhtu Arslan criticized the Supreme Court of Appeals for not adhering to the rulings of Turkey’s Constitutional Court in the case of a jailed lawmaker. Arslan emphasized that differences of opinion or interpretation should not serve as justifications for disregarding decisions made by the Constitutional Court. 

Speaking at a ceremony for interns who completed their constitutional law training, Arslan addressed the Supreme Court of Appeals, urging a collective responsibility to prevent arbitrary actions that could undermine the rule of law in Turkey. He emphasized the Constitutional Court's mission to safeguard freedoms and criticized justifications for non-compliance with its decisions, noting their lack of constitutional and legal grounds.

Jailed former Turkish MP Kaya is kept in a one-person cell

Huda Kaya, a former member of the Turkish parliament imprisoned in last November for her involvement in the 2014 protests in Kurdish provinces, said that she is being held in a one-person cell. According to the Bianet news website, Kaya has faced various challenges during her incarceration, including authorities refusing to deliver her letters. 

Responding to questions from reporter Evrim Kepenek, Kaya described these practices as arbitrary and noted that a significant portion of the country is now more acquainted with prison conditions. Kaya also emphasized that tens of thousands of people are held in captivity merely for advocating justice, condemning war and hatred, and promoting peace.

"Turkey tightens internet censorship ahead of elections" by Adam Samson, Financial Times

Turkey is tightening its censorship of the internet months before an important election, highlighting concerns that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government is further restricting civil liberties.

Documents seen by the Financial Times show that Turkey’s Information Technologies and Communications Authority (BTK) told internet service providers a month ago to curtail access to more than a dozen popular virtual private network services.

At the same time, social media site X said this week it had “taken action” against 15 posts as a result of a court order that also targeted several of the group’s rivals. X said it would have faced a ban in Turkey had it not complied with the order.

The latest interventions against online content, which come ahead of local elections in March, have fuelled concern that the government is further stifling independent sources of news and information in the country of 85mn people. 

While VPNs are used in more technologically literate parts of Turkish society, many Turks will never use such services and rely on online news media and television that is largely state-controlled or aligned with the government.

Censored topics vary widely but include articles critical of Erdoğan and his family, pro-Kurdish and opposition websites and material viewed as obscene or criminal, according to Turkish Freedom of Expression Association. 


Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania sign agreement to combat sea mines drifting in Black Sea

On January 11, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania signed an agreement to collectively address the issue of drifting sea mines, a threat to Black Sea shipping since the onset of the Ukraine war. 

During a press conference in Istanbul, Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler, along with Romanian Defense Minister Angel Tilvar and Bulgarian Deputy Defense Minister Atanas Zapryanov, announced the establishment of a Mine Countermeasures Task Group among the three NATO allies to handle the mines effectively. Guler suggested that other countries may also join in the mine-clearing efforts following the war's conclusion.

Erdogan condemns U.S. and British strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen

On January 12, Turkish President Erdogan criticized the U.S. and British airstrikes on Houthi targets in Yemen, labeling them as a disproportionate use of force. Responding to questions about the overnight strikes carried out by U.S. and British forces in retaliation against Iran-backed Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping, Erdogan expressed disapproval, stating that the actions taken were not proportionate. 

Erdogan went on to accuse the two nations of attempting to transform the Red Sea into a 'sea of blood.' "Yemen, with the Houthis, will provide a necessary response in the region to the United States and Britain," he added.

Erdogan: Turkey submits evidence to international court against Israel 

On January 12, President Erdogan announced that Turkey is submitting evidence for South Africa's case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinian civilians. Erdogan said Turkey would persist in supplying documents, primarily visuals, detailing Israel's attacks on Gaza.

Somalia President's son appears in Istanbul Court regarding motorcycle courier's death

The son of Somalia’s president testified in an Istanbul court on January 12 regarding the death of a motorcycle courier, as reported by Demiroren News Agency.

After Mohammed Hassan Sheikh Mohamud provided a statement at the Caglayan courthouse, the court revoked the arrest warrant and travel ban. Mohamud, who had been driving a diplomatic car, was released after reiterating his earlier assertion that the courier was at fault.

An arrest warrant was issued for Mohamud when the diplomatic car he was driving hit Yunus Emre Gocer on a highway in Istanbul on Nov. 30. Gocer died in the hospital he was taken to six days later, while Mohamud had already left Turkey.