To reform or not to reform: Power struggle in Ankara

'Reformist' policymakers within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have begun accusing Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and his recent security-centric policies of "sabotaging" their efforts to implement economic and democratic reforms.

K. Murat Yıldız / Duvar English

Following the departure of the highly criticized Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, the appointment of a new raft of monetary policymakers, and frequent promises of economic and democratic reforms from President Erdoğan we now see created great economic expectations within Turkey and internationally.

Decisions made by those new policymakers, headed by Finance Minister Lütfi Elvan and Central Bank Governor Naci Ağbal, such as an increase in interest rates have been welcomed by domestic and international investors.

Optimism regarding the future of Turkey's economy and the lira after those decisions also stems from promises of reform. However, sources in Ankara told Duvar English that not everyone in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is as enthusiastic about said reforms.

‘Do it quickly’

A week ago, prominent journalist Deniz Zeyrek wrote that Elvan was lobbying and pushing his own party members toward reform of the judiciary and human rights issues.

“Whatever it is that you will do, do it quickly. Otherwise, we cannot achieve sustainable [financial] recovery,” Elvan told his colleagues, according to Zeyrek.

Sources in Ankara confirmed Zeyrek’s report to Duvar English, adding that there is a serious clash between reformists and the defenders of security-centric policies headed by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.

‘I cannot hold the economy any longer!’

According to the same sources, Minister Elvan told high-ranking government officials that if reforms do not materialize that he could not "hold the economy any longer."

However, “due to the strong influence of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) over the president, the group headed by Soylu have the upper hand in the presidential palace at least for the moment,” a high ranking bureaucrat told Duvar English under the condition of anonymity.


An AKP official who supports 'reforms' blamed their anti-reform rivals within the party and government for their "polarizing language" as well as the "heavy-handed response of security forces, detentions, and arrests during the Boğaziçi University protests." He even referred to those actions as "sabotage."

“Whoever ordered the police to respond in such a way, aimed to harm any prospect of reform,” he said.

Security centered policies

Minister Elvan often reminds government officials that reform is vital to attract foreign investment, Zeyrek told Duvar English.

“There is a direct relationship between the promised reforms and the flow of foreign investment into Turkey. If the reforms don’t materialize they will not attract money from abroad. We have not seen anything substantial until now and the current atmosphere in the country is not reformist. On the contrary, we are seeing more freedoms violated and security-centric policies dominate the country,” he added.

He concluded with a recommendation, saying, “The government has to sit down and make a decision. You cannot talk about reform in a country where the government labels students practicing their constitutional right to demonstrate as terrorists.”