Meet the man who must solve Turkey’s economic crisis

Berat Albayra, the consigliere who became president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s confidante

Consigliere for more than a decade and now Turkey’s second most powerful person, Berat Albayrak’s rise through the ranks has become one of the most consistent - and contentious - themes of the country’s recent history.

The 40-year-old businessman, who is due to address foreign investors about the lira crisis on Thursday, owes his position to his father-in-law, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has given him sweeping powers in Turkish life, particularly in the past five years.

The unyielding confidence that Erdogan has placed in the husband of his daughter, Esra, culminated in his appointment as finance minister in June, a role that has left Albayrak as custodian of a grave national crisis.

As Turkey’s currency dabbles with the unknown and global markets nervously weigh whether the country can pull its economy back from the brink, the two men carry a burden that many believe they are unable to shoulder.


Albayrak has learned much from his father-in-law, who in turn appears to have studied how his newest nemesis - Donald Trump - tries to rule. Albayrak is to Erdogan what Jared Kushner is to Trump; the former’s title matters less than his proximity to Turkey’s centre of power, and the same can be said for Kushner.

Both presidents see themselves as strongmen whose faith is best placed in family. Erdogan, like Trump, has invested his legacy in his son-in-law.

Since a referendum last year that gave Erdogan sweeping executive powers, and an election win in June that gave him a mandate to implement them, he and Albayrak have become even more powerful. The duo effectively run the country.

The Turkish parliament rubber-stamps the president’s will and his ministers serve as a de facto royal court. The Turkish media has been tamed and its body politic subdued.

Speaking truth to power carries increasing risks in Erdogan’s Turkey. Albayrak has long shared Erdogan’s disdain for dissent and distrust of the west. His allies say he has mooted orientating Turkey’s economy away from the US and Europe and towards Asia and emerging economies.

Albayrak completed a master’s of finance at New York’s Pace University, before completing a PhD in Turkey. In 2006, two years after his marriage, he was appointed the chief executive of the energy and media conglomerate Çalik, a role that opened connections across the region.

In 2015, Albayrak was named energy minister - the same year he became an MP. By later that year he had begun to consolidate political power, moving from one of the country’s most influential businessmen to a figure at the heart of the power base - and unmistakably tied to his father-in-law.

He displayed a ruthless streak, eliminating perceived rivals within the ruling AKP party, such as Turkey’s then prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, and anyone perceived to be disloyal to Erdogan.

In the following years, Albayrak became both feared and formidable, acting as Erdogan’s enforcer, while at the same time gathering powers that made him almost untouchable - as long as Turkey’s current leader remains in power.

The pair’s relationship has grown so close that Erdogan’s trust has been described by those who know the pair’s dynamic as almost unconditional.

Before the economic crisis, the scale of which only emerged last week, there was nothing on the political horizon thought likely to test that.

Now though, with the size of Turkey’s credit bubble, and the vulnerability of its highly geared construction sector to ever more expensive foreign debt, Albayrak faces a test unlike any other.

For now, Erdogan remains defiant, refusing to acknowledge the scale of a problem that has alarmed regional markets and economists at home and abroad.

Albayrak appears committed to Erdogan’s highly unorthodox insistence on low interest rates as a way out, and similarly locked into staring down the US.

His fortunes wed intrinsically to his patron, he has next to no room to plot a different course. Both men will either right the ship, or go down with it. - Guardian Service