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The Economic And Peace Dividends Of The Gezi Movement

Article illustrative image Partner logo June 22 protests in Istanbul's Taksim Square

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.

Taksim Square on June 22, 2013 - Photo: Reflections on a revolution FB

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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