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The Economic And Peace Dividends Of The Gezi Movement

June 22 protests in Istanbul's Taksim Square
June 22 protests in Istanbul's Taksim Square
Ãœmit Izmen

ISTANBUL - If Turkey's nationalist left tend to blame everything on imperialism, the country's nationalist right has a tradition of pointing fingers at lobbies and vested interests trying to block Turkey’s progress. That same old tune can be heard today, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself has started blaming recent unrest in Turkey on an “interest lobby.”

The catchphrase "interest lobby" is an ideological conceptualization devoid of meaning. It makes no sense to even say that such a bona fide lobby exists in a country that boasts healthy industries, economic balance and a strong financial sector, and where income per capita exceeds $10,000. One can only assume that the term is being used as demagogic rhetoric.

Referring to an "interest lobby" is as meaningless as accusing protesters of an economic boycott -- which would be contrary to the spirit of the Gezi movement that instead is focused on fostering more democracy and freedom. It would be naive to imagine that shopping from local markets instead of big shopping malls, getting your money out of banks, reducing expenses, not consuming gas and using cabs instead of public transportation would damage the government. And quoting it from METU (Middle East Technical University) doesn't make it more reasonable.

Despite all this nonsense, there is a remarkable cause-and-effect relationship between economic and political performance. Today more than ever. The protests can damage financial markets in a way that can negatively impact interest rates and companies' decisions on investment and production, which may be linked to stock market fluctuations. Consumption can also take a dive, resulting in a growth slowdown.

This is something that we know from the 1990s: if stagnating economic growth has an influence on the political arena, increasing the country's instability, we can find ourselves trapped in a vicious circle, and downward spiral.

On the other hand, there is an even stronger possibility of entering a positive spiral. This is in line with the significant steps Turkey took in terms of participative democracy over the past three weeks. The construction plans for Gezi Park were cancelled because of the public reaction. Today, the government cannot do whatever it pleases, and even the word of the Prime Minister can be questioned.

In Turkey, modernization has always been imposed by the powers-that-be; its practical effects have never really been internalized by society as a whole -- at least not yet. This time, the will of people was stronger than the written law, meaning that it's time to implement these achievements into the law and the constitution.

Kurdish equation

Surely, the effect on finances can be nothing but positive. Democratization would decrease risk premiums and interest rates and make it possible to control potential drawbacks caused by the global economy, therefore allowing Turkey's economic growth to increase.

While our attention was focused on Gezi movement, the country's Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) made important statements on the peace process. Soon the retreat of PKK military forces from Turkey will be complete and the legal regulation phase will start. The successful realization of these democratic steps will also mean the satisfaction of the demands that emerged in Gezi process.

Earlier this week, following the lead of Tarkan Kadooglu, an entrepreneur from Cizre in southeastern Turkey, TUSIAD (Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association) and TURKONFED ( Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation) will organize a meeting on the economic dimension of the peace process. With such remarkable timing and positive spirit, the strong support coming from the business world is good news indeed.

Occupy Gezi ended the monopoly the Turkish government had over Kurdish issue. Now the peace process has a wider support. This is just one more surprise achievement of the Gezi movement.

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An End To Venezuela Sanctions? The Lula Factor In Biden's Democratization Gamble

The Biden administration's exploration to lift sanctions on Venezuela, hoping to gently push its regime back on the path of democracy, might have taken its cue from Brazilian President Lula's calls to stop demonizing Venezuela.

Photo of a man driving a motorbike past a wall with a mural depicting former President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela

Driving past a Chavez mural in Caracas, Venezuela

Leopoldo Villar Borda


BOGOTÁ — Reports last month that U.S. President Joe Biden's apparent decision to unblock billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets, frozen since 2015 as part of the United States' sanctions on the Venezuelan regime, could be the first of many pieces to fall in a domino effect that could help end the decades-long Venezuelan deadlock.

It may move the next piece — the renewal of conversations in Mexico between the Venezuelan government and opposition — before pushing over other obstacles to elections due in 2024 and to Venezuela's return into the community of American states.

I don't think I'm being naïve in anticipating developments that would lead to a new narrative around Venezuela, very different to the one criticized by Brazil's president, Lula da Silva. He told a regional summit in Brasilia in June that there were prejudices about Venezuela — and I dare say he wasn't entirely wrong, based on the things I hear from a Venezuelan friend who lives in Bogotá but travels frequently home.

My friend insists his country's recent history is not quite as depicted in the foreign press. The price of basic goods found in a food market are much the same as those in Bogotá, he says.

He goes to the theater when he visits Caracas, eats in restaurants and strolls in parks and squares. There are new building works, he says. He uses the Caracas metro and insists its trains and stations are clean — showing me pictures on his cellphone to prove it.

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