Turkey’s economy may be in freefall with soaring inflation, a plunging currency, sliding stocks and a gaping current account deficit, but don’t dare tell the locals that it is president Erdogan’s fault for keeping interest rates low and preventing an even greater crisis: according to Serap, a 23-year-old clerk at a clothes store in central Istanbul, there is only one entity to blame for the precipitous slide in Turkey’s lira currency.
“This crisis is created by America,” she said.
And a crisis it is: prices are soaring as a result of the collapsing currency – which this year has lost more than 35% against the dollar, and has overtaken the Argentine Peso for the worst performing currency of 2018 – with food, rents and fuel prices in Turkey surging, and the country’s pipeline operator raising the price of natural gas for electricity production by 50%.
But when one asks the local population who is responsible for this economic inferno, the answer is surprising.
Serap’s sentiments about the causes of the crisis are shared by many Turks and hint at why support for President Tayyip Erdogan, who after surviving a fake military coup in the summer of 2016, won re-election in June with super-charged presidential powers, looks untouched, at least for now. Erdogan’s loyal supporters see the currency sell-off as a U.S. attempt to undermine their country and president according to Reuters.
That’s also known as the Maduro defense: blame all domestic problems on “shady” foreign actors, usually involving the US. But while the US certainly has its history of intervening in foreign events, this time the crisis is entirely home grown, although predictably, Erdogan would be the last to admit it.
“If they have their dollars, we have our people, our God,” Erdogan said in a speech on Friday morning, casting the lira’s slide as a campaign against the nation.
His comments were all the rage, in some cases literally, across Turkey’s overwhelmingly pro-government media on Friday. Newspapers and TV stations have cast the lira crisis as a political assault, spiraling out of U.S. sanctions imposed on two Turkish ministers last week in a row over the detention of a U.S. evangelical pastor, Andrew Brunson.
“They issued a scandalous decision last week about our ministers,” said Serap,