Turkish government officials relieved at exit of Erdoğan’s son-in-law – FT

The departure of Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who resigned at the weekend, has been met with relief by people inside President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government, according to an official who spoke to the Financial Times.

Albayrak’s unorthodox resignation via his Instagram account on Sunday sent shockwaves through Turkish politics. The minister, Erdoğan’s son-in-law, had headed the country’s economic team since July 2018, when Erdoğan appointed him upon his re-inauguration as president with vast new powers.

The minister was known as an ambitious politician with an often-aggressive demeanour and was apparently being groomed by Erdoğan as a possible successor. All that changed last week, when the lira slumped to a fresh record low against the dollar and Erdoğan allegedly realised that the central bank had spent most of its foreign currency reserves in the lira’s defence.

Albayrak, 42, was reportedly angered at a decision by Erdoğan to appoint Naci Ağbal, the president’s head of strategy and budgetary affairs, as the country’s new central bank chief after firing his predecessor on Saturday. He and Ağbal were known to have clashed over economic policy.

Whatever the reality behind Albayrak’s departure, which he himself claimed was motivated by illness and a desire to spend more time with his family, the former minister is unlikely to reach the political heights that he achieved should he ever return to government.

“I don’t think anyone could ever have imagined what happened,” one shocked former colleague said, the FT reported on Friday. “He can never regain the power he used to have.”

Albayrak insisted for months that Turkey was in the middle of a grand economic transformation even as the lira slid to successive record lows against the dollar. Losses had exceeded 30 percent by the time Erdoğan brought in Ağbal, who is a former finance minister and technocrat with the respect of foreign investors.

The penny dropped for the president, according to insiders of Erdoğan’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), when he was briefed about the scale of the crisis facing the country, especially the dire state of the central bank’s currency reserves, the FT said.

Some, however, find it impossible to comprehend that Erdoğan was unaware of how bad things were. The president meets regularly with business leaders and is known for his micro-management of ministers.

Others maintain that Erdoğan was cut off from reality because he had surrounded himself with loyalists and side-lined internal critics, the FT said.

“It is unbelievable, yet believable,” said one person with close links to the AKP, according to the newspaper.

After two years of Albayrak’s tenure, Erdoğan may have come to a sudden realisation that his political future was under threat from his son-in-law’s economic management, said Can Selçuki, head of consultancy firm Istanbul Economics Research.

Now the president is pledging market-friendly reforms, to court foreign investors and to allow the central bank to implement policies designed to rein in Turkey’s double-digit inflation.

“There was a cost to having Albayrak in that position for over two years, and Erdoğan bore that cost,” Selçuki said. “But when he actually realised that the economy was going to take him down, he pivoted in a way that nobody was expecting.”