President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has begun testing the waters to reintroduce to prominence his son-in-law Berat Albayrak, who stepped down as finance minister and disappeared months ago. Frequently under criticism over his failed handling of the economy, Albayrak could make a comeback as minister of foreign affairs, according to some speculation.
Back in November Albayrak resigned as finance minister, using a rather unusual medium to announce his move: his Instagram account. That was presumably because he was unable to use any other platform since on the day of his resignation first his personal Twitter account and then the official account of his ministry were removed. The Turkish mainstream media, which is under Erdoğan’s direct control, did not report on Albayrak’s post on Instagram. However, the decision caused an uproar on social media throughout the day, and Erdoğan ultimately declared that Albayrak was “excused from duty due to health problems.” Yet, the tone of Albayrak’s statement was found by many to be harsh and filled with grievance.
Albayrak went off the grid afterwards in a way that paved the way for speculation that he was being held under house arrest in a luxury villa owned by the Erdoğan family or that he was severely beaten by Erdoğan’s nephew and chief bodyguard Ali Erdoğan and his crew. What fed these rumors was Albayrak’s abrupt disappearance, which was in direct contrast to his flamboyant personality and eagerness to be in the spotlight.
After the passage of three months, Erdoğan made comments in defense of Albayrak, claiming that he was in fact successful as minister and that his achievements were overshadowed by his status as his son-in-law. Following Erdoğan’s remarks, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) released a video on Albayrak’s economic performance, depicting the crises during his time in office and slamming him for disappearing without a trace. The video put the emphasis on the erosion of central bank reserves, calling the economic administration’s incompetence a threat to national security.
Erdoğan, known for his strong reaction when it comes to criticism targeting his family, doubled down. What drew particular attention was his praise for Albayrak’s previous performance as energy minister, which led some to believe that he might return in that capacity. Another rumor was that he could be appointed to the presidency as an advisor on matters related to the economy and energy.
Backstage speculation also anticipates that Erdoğan is planning to take action prior to his ruling Justice and Development Party’s convention, which is scheduled for March 24.
The chances of Albayrak’s return to the helm of the economy are considered slim, given the markets’ positive reaction to his resignation. The lira, which had rallied the day Albayrak stepped down, saw a decline amid Erdoğan’s comments about him.
Former prime minister describes Albayrak’s rise to political stage
Ahmet Davutoğlu, a former Erdoğan associate who has served as prime minister and recently parted ways with him and set up a breakaway party to challenge his rule, joined the public debate on Albayrak, revealing that he had strongly objected to Erdoğan at the time he introduced his son-in-law to politics.
“When the president first declared his intention to nominate Berat Albayrak for parliament, I almost implored him not to bring a relative of his into politics, which would harm everyone. I couldn’t make him listen. Later, when Berat Albayrak was suggested as a potential minister I begged him again. I especially said not to bring him into ministries that consume considerable financial resources, which would lead to speculation. Again, I wasn’t able to make him listen. Now I would like to ask the president: Was that a good idea?”
Albayrak is accused of burning through the central bank’s foreign currency reserves in order to rein in the exchange rate pressure, caused by misguided economic policies. Under his watch, the bank’s reserves hit record lows.