Finance Minister Berat Albayrak has resigned. He posted his resignation on Instagram.
He resigned on Sunday evening, but Turkish TV news did not report the resignation anytime Sunday night or even on Monday. There was silence from conventional media, so as usual, people turned to social media.
We don’t know much about the background behind the resignation, but there are a lot of rumors going around on Twitter and in WhatsApp groups. Instead of journalists telling viewers what has been happening, background information is being shared among people online. The most shared rumor is about a duel between the new head of the Central Bank, Naci Ağbal, and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak. The duel is said to have led Albayrak to his resignation.
The details of this purported duel have been shared by a pro-government journalist, Emre Erciş.
Emre Erciş tweeted that the Finance Minister Berat Albayrak had not informed the President about the Central Bank’s reserves. He had been telling President Erdoğan that the Central Bank had much more dollar reserves and reserves in other currencies than it really did. Erdoğan learned about the actual level of the reserves in a presentation by Naci Ağbal.
Another former journalist, Osman Sert, now the head of a think tank, talked about the incident on a YouTube channel. According to Sert, the presentation made Mr. Albayrak furious and he attacked Mr. Ağbal in some fashion after the meeting.
It is almost impossible to know for sure whether this really happened, or if the incident was really leaked. Rather, it may have been fed to the press doing their journalism on social media.
On the one hand, this rumor tells us that the strong leader of Turkey, President Erdoğan, did not know what the Central Bank reserves were. This is actually publicly accessible information. He never wondered and checked the Turkish Central Bank’s internet site, where he would see what the reserves were. If that is the case, it is alarming. This means Mr. Erdoğan, who is the only decision maker in Turkey, does not have basic information and does not know how to get such information.
However, the incident might not be a hundred percent true and it might be fed to the press to gloss over Mr. Erdoğan’s role.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s status as legendary to his voters hinges on being responsible for success, not failure. Whenever something goes wrong, someone else is found to blame. This is how the power mechanism led by Mr. Erdoğan is established. So if the health system is in crisis, the Ministry of Health gets changed; if the economy crashes, the Finance Minister is blamed. Although all the ministers are handpicked by Erdoğan and they act under his authority and orders, the president somehow manages to distance himself from these failures.
For some time now, all the failures of the Turkish economy will be blamed on Berat Albayrak. President Erdoğan will not be held responsible for the crashing of the lira, the emptied central bank reserves or over-expenditure in the state sector.
Berat Albayrak’s resignation also sends a message to every political actor connected to the AKP. In a one-man system, even the son-in-law is not safe; he is to be spared if needed. Thus, nobody within the power mechanism is safe.