*Edited for clarity and brevity. Click here for the full interview.
FTP: How would you describe the mood of the opposition heading into Sunday’s runoff?
HB: The opposition is probably extremely demoralized. Before the first round, the polls suggested Kilicdaroglu was going to come in first and maybe even win the first round. This was a prevalent view. But in fact the polls were all wrong, to the extent the election was free—which we don’t know and may never know.
So they are very demoralized, and there are tensions within the coalition itself. It is likely that Erdogan wins by a large margin, which will be very empowering to him. But we’ll find out on Sunday.
The opposition has a lot to answer for. It made serious mistakes.
FTP: What do you think of the nationalist turn that Kilidaroglu has taken since the first round?
HB: The coalition with this extreme right wing party will not bring much to the opposition. He doesn’t even have that many votes to bring.
FTP: So why…?
HB: They’re trying to counterbalance Ogan’s endorsement of Erdogan and the votes of his right wing Victory Party. He did something, psychologically, that helps Erdogan at Kilidaroglu’s expense.
FTP: What happens with an Erdogan win on Sunday? Will he see this election as a mandate, will he further consolidate power?
HB: It’s difficult to see him consolidating more power than he already has. He now controls every institution of the country. There are still press outlets, academics, intellectuals, and civil society organizations that oppose him—they are the ones who will pay a price in the years following this election. But fundamentally speaking, there is no rule of law in Turkey. If Erdogan wants someone in prison, he will go to prison. It doesn’t matter what the evidence is, as I know firsthand.
But its not just the judiciary. It’s the security forces, the central bank, the press, and increasingly the universities too will come under his control. Increasingly it will become a state with one voice, where there is no dissent—like Belarus, maybe, one day.
This is the only country I know where twenty thousand people were charged with insulting the President.
FTP: Do you not foresee a post-election crackdown? Will there be any kind of reaction after Sunday, retribution for opposition figures?
HB: That will come but it won’t be after Sunday. Not immediately. But there will be one for sure. Erdogan is a very vindictive person. He doesn’t like to be slighted. It won’t be all in one go—it will be slow.
FTP: Erdogan has made a lot of economic campaign problems. What will the fall-out be?
HB: The Turkish economic situation is very dire. In the run-up to the elections, they really manipulated the numbers, the exchange rate, bank deposits…they’re worried about the foreign currency reserves and the impact on the Turkish lira. They’ve been trying to hide the fact that they dn’t have any reserves to support the currency and at the same time make it look like there is not a great demand for selling Turkish liras.
But you can’t do this forever. The Turkish economy needs to be able to operate in a capitalist world. What they’ve done until recently is not sustainable. Therefore they have to change policy. The question is when.
My suspicion is that he will not do it immediately. In part because we are going into the summer—the easiest part of the year because the demand for energy goes down. The second reason is tourism revenue. That will cushion Erdogan for the next three months.
After that I think the reckoning will come—in the fall when he has to finance foreign trade. The question is what does he do then? Erdogan has been a believer in lowering interest rates because he has this idea that it lowers inflation. But nobody believes the Turkish state’s official numbers [which are already very high]. The real rate may be above 80-90%.
If he gets through the summer, he’ll have to decide whether or not to go back to orthodox economic policy. But he genuinely believes in cutting interest rates, and he’s surrounded himself with yes men. The central bank is not independent, and Erdogan fires central bank governors who defy his policies.
The result of such policies is that the lira tanked, and so did foreign direct investment. And Turkey needs to rebuild its manufacturing sector. [And there is opportunity, as the U.S. looks to expand its manufacturing to rely less on China].
But I don’t know if Erdogan really understands this. And he’s not taking advantage of it. But the problem is that people don’t trust Erdogan. They don’t trust that his reforms will last. So for foreign capital to come back into Turkey, they will need some sort of message—that Erdogan is in for the long haul.