The Irish Times view on Turkey’s problems: president is focused on re-election

Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes to improve his chances of winning with a reset of foreign policy

Faced with mounting inflation, currency depreciation and unemployment as Turkey heads for presidential and parliamentary elections next year, president Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes to improve his chances of winning them with a reset of his foreign policy.

This involves a sharp reversal of regional alliances put in place during the Arab revolts of 2011-2012, when he supported Muslim Brotherhood movements in Egypt and elsewhere, antagonising Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states afraid of regional and social instability. Erdogan now needs their political support after a prolonged period of erratic economic mismanagement.

His visit to Saudi Arabia last week to meet crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman came at the price of transferring the trial of 24 people accused of murdering the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi there from Istanbul, a major concession after his support for their prosecution.

In return he hopes Saudi trade and investment in Turkey will resume in time to help boost its recovery before the voting. The move may also position Turkey to play a greater role on Iran, Syria and Israel-Palestine. Erdogan's neo-Ottoman and emerging Euroasian vision comes with a growing right-wing authoritarianism at home, exemplified by the conviction of the businessman Osman Kavala and others on charges of attempting to overthrow the government. Erdogan's vendetta against him has further undermined the country's legal integrity and international reputation, as the main opposition party vows to release them if it wins the elections.


Another source of Turkey's economic problems is the Ukraine war, since it trades and invests extensively with Russia as well as Ukraine and has military and security relations with both states, all now disrupted. This has given Erdogan a mediating role. For the moment talks are on hold as the fighting intensifies, but they are a valuable initiative. That feeds back into Erdogan's domestic reputation and popularity. His ruthless pursuit of advantage at home and abroad are focused on securing re-election.