A decision by the Turkish government to again extend the state of emergency in Turkey last week has been met with dismay by the country’s leading business organisation. Erol Bilecik, head of the Turkish Business and Industry Association (TÜSİAD), urged the government to take urgent steps towards normalisation.
On 17 October, the Turkish Parliament voted to maintain the current state of emergency, which was first declared following a coup attempt in July 2016. It is the fifth such extension by Parliament, where the ruling AK Party have a large majority.
The decision, which gives the government widespread powers to root out the coup plotters and put down terrorist groups, was not backed by the main opposition Republican Turkish Party (CHP) or People’s Democratic Party (HDP). The CHP, HDP and many other civic organisations across Turkey argue these emergency powers are being misused by the authorities.
A massive crackdown was launched in the wake of the failed coup, resulting in some 50,000 people being arrested and more than 110,000 dismissed from government jobs. Critics claim the Turkish authorities are taking advantage of the situation to unfairly silence opponents unconnected with the coup plot, holding on remand politicians, journalists and activists who are accused of ‘supporting terrorism’ even where little or no evidence exists.
In an interview with Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, published on Monday 23 Oct, TÜSİAD head Bilecik stated:
“We know that economic gains are not going to be lasting and sustainable without improvements in democracy. It is impossible to talk about adding value and job creation, attracting quality investments or enjoying the fruits of successful enterprise in the country, if society is lacking law, democracy and freedoms.”
Responding to a question about the extension of the state of emergency, the TÜSİAD chairman, whose members include the country’s largest conglomerates, said, “We should take quick steps toward normalisation,” adding, “the perception [of Turkey] is different abroad than what we have here.”
Bilecik said his members were facing difficulties with their foreign trading partners due to the political situation in Turkey, which was creating new challenges and concerns in travel, commercial agreements, and risks in the supply of goods.
The business leader’s comments also touched on social issues in Turkey, such as a new law granting religious figures the right to conduct marriage services. He made a call to all political parties to avoid further polarisation of the public.