Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he wants to throw out ambassadors, including from Norway. – He is trying to bring out a conflict that shows that Turkey needs a strong man, says Turkey expert.
“I have asked our Foreign Minister to declare these ten ambassadors persona non grata as soon as possible,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday afternoon.
With that move, Norway’s ambassador to Turkey, Erling Skjønsberg, may be forced to leave Turkey.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (UD) had not yet received information about eviction orders on Saturday night.
The background to Erdogan’s drastic message is that Norway and other countries, including the United States, Canada and Denmark, are demanding the release of Turkish opposition leader Osman Kavala from Turkish prison.
Kavala jailed in 2017 for his alleged involvement in demonstrations and uprisings against Erdogan in Istanbul in 2013.
– Turkey is in a quite serious economic crisis, says Einar Wigen, associate professor at the University of Oslo and Turkey expert, to VG.
He believes the economic crisis will have consequences for the president’s popularity:
– Erdogan’s popularity is declining due to declining purchasing power. There have been sharp price increases on a number of fronts. This is partly due to high gas prices, but also that the Lira (Turkish currency journ.anm.) Is low. This means that ordinary Turks cannot pay for goods. Ordinary Turks, including the president’s bedrock, have a hard time making ends meet.
The Turkey expert believes that Erdogan is resorting to an old move to “gather troops” among his supporters.
– Every time Erdogan is in a political crisis, he has managed to play up a conflict against others to get his bedrock to support himself. Erdogan is trying to bring out a conflict that shows that Turkey needs a strong man. That this is in Turkey’s honor.
Ambassadors from these countries may be expelled from Turkey:
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
Wigen believes the choice of case is largely random.
– I think the choice to respond to this statement is random. There could have been a number of other issues he could have chosen to politicize, Wigen says, referring to the Osman Kavala case.
– To deal with the domestic political crisis, and divert attention from it, Erodgan often uses this type of means as other external enemies one can rally against.
However, the UiO researcher is unsure whether the grip will pay off in the long run.
– It is a very short-term perspective on foreign policy relations. One does not see how many years of work such a case tears down. Turkey has done this with one country after another: It has had flaring conflicts with allies and friends and then it is expected that it will flare up when the domestic political situation is over, says Wigen.
– Deporting Norway’s ambassador does not do anything with the fundamental problem, namely the purchasing power of the Turks, he says.
– Obviously political motives
The immediate background is that Erdogan wants Osman Kavala to remain in prison for as long as possible, says associate professor at UiO and Turkey expert Joakim Parslow about the Turkish president’s eviction statements.
– Kavala has been an activist in Turkey for many years. He has been busy supporting the book industry and free speech for many years. He has been in prison since 2017. The indictment against him is apparently politically motivated. These are clearly fabricated charges, Parslow says.
Parslow points out that the fabricated allegations are the reason why the European Court of Human Rights has requested Kavala’s release. However, the Turkey expert agrees with his UiO colleague that the case has a larger backdrop.
“It is very surprising that Erogan will take such drastic action,” Parslow said of the eviction notice.
– It is probably aimed at a domestic audience. In recent years, the economy has been very bad in Turkey. It’s expensive time and inflation. Erdogan is looking at poll after poll of support is about to be missed, he says.
– The next election is scheduled to take place in 2023. Then Erdogan has the choice between gaining support in a democratic way. Or creating crises, says Parslow and adds:
– It looks like he is creating an enemy image in a classic way.
– Conspiratorial worldview
The UiO researcher believes Kavala is far from being used as a scapegoat.
– It is a bit arbitrary who ends up in sight. The important thing is that Erdogan is by far a conspiratorial worldview, where one can plot actors. In this case, Kavala has been “unlucky”, says Parslow. He believes Norway and other countries’ condemnation of imprisonment fits Erdogan’s worldview.
– It suits Erdogan well that the western countries are building up under this. Then he can draw more cards and say “you are attacking the sovereignty of our courts”. He plays on stronger which goes far back in Turkish history.
Parslow believes the move could have consequences for Turkey.
– The interesting thing is what consequences this has in the long run. This can not be good for the Turkish economy. Foreign investment in Turkey is already low. It can not be good for the Turkish economy, he says and points out that several of the countries are both NATO allies and members of the Council of Europe.
Parslow points out that Turkey is already at risk of disciplinary action as a result of the imprisonment of Osman Kavala.
– In the first instance, this could lead to Turkey losing the right to vote in the Council of Europe – and ultimately it could lead to Turkey losing membership.
However, the Turkey expert does not believe that the Turkish president wants to close the door on Europe.
– I do not think Erodgan wants to close that door. I think he has underestimated the long-term consequences here, he says.