President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Feb. 24 said that Turkey used to become “a country of restrictions and poverty” whereas now it encompasses “freedoms, peace and development.”
“When we look at the past, we see this fact in a very clear way. There is a tremendous difference between Turkey of 2021 and Turkey of 2002,” Erdoğan said, referring to the year when his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power.
“The old Turkey was the country of restrictions and poverty: There was quarrel, chaos and unrest. There was an economic depression in which overnight interest rates used to reach as high as 7,500 percent. Today's Turkey is a country of freedoms, self-confidence, development, growth and peace,” Erdoğan said, while speaking to a provincial AKP congress.
He said that it was thanks to the AKP rule that the “old Turkey” had ended. “We reasserted the national will by having chains of tutelage removed. We have taken our country to unimaginable levels in every area.”
He said that it was during the reign of the AKP that citizens residing in eastern provinces of the country have started to enjoy several “opportunities.” “Whatever our opportunities our citizens have in Ankara and Istanbul, our citizens in also Hatay, Diyarbakır, Ağrı and Bolu have also gained them. If there is a short-coming [of the government], we are trying to remove them swiftly,” he said.
When Erdoğan and his ruling AKP came to power in Turkey in 2002, there were high hopes among some groups about progress on democratic governance, minority rights, and economic reform.
Erdoğan however started to become more authoritarian over the years, weakening civil society and cracking on the opposition.
The government’s elastic definition of what constitutes “terrorism” altered the bounds of what is politically permissible, as acceptable actions one day were later deemed unacceptable.
Today critics say that the government has to a large extent narrowed space for dissent, shrunk press freedom, and diminished confidence in state institutions.
The government's increasing authoritarianism has also weakened the governance structures, negatively affected its foreign policymaking, and hurt its previously strong economy.