Clash of the Anatolian Tigers


Date posted: April 29, 2014

PINAR TREMBLAY

In the post-election climate, fears of the Gulen movement seem validated as we observe a gradual, yet drastic shift in the Turkish business alignment map. On April 23, the Capital Markets Board stopped Bank Asia from issuing sukuk (Islamic finance certificate bond) debt. Bloomberg reported on April 26, “The Turkish lender in partnership talks with Qatar Islamic Bank must ask the regulator for permission to issue further sukuk under a 1.25 billion lira ($587 million) debt program.” Asia Bank, the lender, is a member of TUSKON, the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey, known for its close association with the Gulen movement.

This is a mind-boggling change given the fact that only in early 2013 Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled with TUSKON’s chairman and other associates on his official international trips. In April 2012, Erdogan addressed TUSKON’s annual gathering with praises for the accomplishments of these businessmen.

The deteriorating relationship between the Gulen movement and the government has also affected the business world. Head of TUSKON was quoted as saying, “Invite politicians into the business world if they prefer making profits instead of serving the public,” as a response to Erdogan’s call to the Gulen movement to form a political party if they want to rule the country.

To understand how the Turkish business world’s alignment has shifted over time, let’s briefly explain the playing field. TUSIAD (Turkish Industry and Business Association) is the oldest and the most prestigious club. It has about 600 members representing the most prominent businesses in Turkey, which employ around 50% of the work force, excluding public and agriculture sectors.

In the 1980s, the Turkish economy’s liberalization helped small Anatolian businesses improve their standings. However, those businesses could not initially make it into TUSIAD. Commonly referred to as the “Anatolian Tigers,” these businesses then formed other associations representing their interests. The most well-known being MUSIAD (Association of Independent Industrialists and Businessmen). MUSIAD was established in Istanbul in 1990, and represents about 3,500 businesses. Although the letter M stands for mustakil, meaning independent, collegially it is referred to as “Muslim.” In the early 2000s, TUSKON and several other associations were formed.

TUSKON was particularly favored by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, as the party’s relations with the Gulen movement flourished. Intriguingly, TUSKON was seen as a pioneer of the “outgoing and engaging” approach, populated by businesses willing to take risks in highly uncertain markets, particularly those in Africa.

Recently, lines between these associations have become quite blurred as the Anatolian Tigers have made inroads to the prestigious TUSIAD and reached the association’s upper levels. This change has not only broken serious taboos in the Turkish economy but also realigned Turkish businesses. Memduh Boydak, CEO of the family company Boydak Group — which Turkish magazine Ekonomist ranked No. 1 among 500 Anatolian businesses — now has a seat in the TUSIAD leadership. Muharrem Yilmaz, TUSIAD’s current chairman, is also known as an Anatolian businessman.

These developments were mainly because of the transformation the Anatolian Tigers went through in the last decade: the Anatolian Tigers are no longer all that Anatolian, and while they evolved in the heartland of Anatolia, in the last decade they have acclaimed a global reach. Talat Yesiloglu, Ekonomist editor, told Al-Monitor the magazine’s research has shown the top 500 of the Anatolian Tigers now make up about 10-11% of annual Turkish exports and about 10% of the gross domestic product.

The jury is out on whether these Anatolian-based companies represent “green or Islamic capital.” For decades, scholars have questioned whether these businesses are the Islamic Calvinists. So far, they have adapted to the global market conditions and capital accumulation process smoothly.

A sentiment of deprivation has been the most crucial bond of solidarity among these conservative businessmen. Yet, success has erased that sentiment for the second and third generation of the Anatolian Tigers. The battle between the AKP and the Gulen movement has revealed the tarnished solidarity beyond denial. So much so that in February, Erdogan was quoted as saying they will wipe TUSKON “off the market,” or any business that cooperates with the ‘parallel’ state forces. Gone are the days of government support and protection for TUSKON. Yesiloglu told Al-Monitor that MUSIAD and DEIK (Foreign Economic Relations Board) are expected to be the new government favorites to replace Gulen-related establishments. In the midst of the battle between the Gulen movement and the government, several nongovermental organizations and business establishments have been forced to choose a side. One of the alleged leaks has supported Gulen movement’s suspicions that AKP elites are pressuring the business community to take an open stand against the Gulen movement.

While many were questioning if these companies can survive without Erdogan, Mustafa Boydak, vice chairman of the Boydak Group’s Executive Board, spoke up against Erdogan, arguing, “Governments did not make us, we made them successful.” In the simplest terms, the relationship is complicated and interdependent. It is no longer the Anatolian capital against Istanbul businesses, but many businessmen now view the playing field as “MUSIAD versus TUSKON.” The fraction lines among the Anatolian Tigers have become too deep to ignore as the Gulen movement’s battle with the AKP intensifies.

What will happen now? Will the political and legal struggle between these forces also affect the Turkish economy on a large scale? Will the government further penalize businesses labeled as supportive of the Gulen movement? Gulen-associated businesses inside Turkey have already been “punished.” Several pundits have told Al-Monitor they do not expect TUSKON-related businesses, particularly Asia Bank, to survive another year. Erdogan has always been quite savvy to utilize money as a tool to “discipline dissent.” Given the fact that many Ankara bureaucrats now refer to Erdogan not as a “micro” but “nano” manager, we can see how effective money can be in his “management” plans.

Neslihan Tonbul, a senior credit marketing specialist and board member of Turcas Petrol AS, told Al-Monitor, “Elections are over, and the public has given Erdogan a seal of approval. Markets thrive upon stability and trust. We see signals that markets follow the lead of the election results. Banking and finance sectors are crucial. The first quarter of the year in Turkey was fine. Indeed, Turkey did better than several European countries.” Tonbul and several other members of the business community agree the AKP government is taking the necessary and proper economic steps. One commented, “Despite all the political brouhaha, it is business as usual.”

The pious Muslims of Anatolia are proving themselves as shrewd and savvy businessmen who can compete on a global scale. Just going over the hurdle of the stereotype of “backward Anatolia” was a significant accomplishment for these establishments. They are over this stigma but also realigned according to their allegiances. Now the real test for many Anatolian Tigers will be on two fronts: Can these pioneer businesses survive without direct AKP support, and how many can resist punishment or co-optation by the government?

Source: Al Monitor , April 28, 2014


Related News

Journalists and Writers Foundation gathers all colors of Turkey at iftar

The evening began with a concert by a musical group and a welcome message from GYV Honorary President Fethullah Gülen. Many of those present expressed their wishes for peace and tolerance. Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin underlined the importance of the dinner, hoping that Ramadan would be an opportunity to enhance ties with brothers.

Will the AKP lose votes in disagreement with Gülen movement?

It is very likely that the real purpose of the government is indeed to punish the Gülen movement. Many political observers disagree with such a claim however, AKP officials have not find any convincing argument that will convince conservative people that the government is not punishing the Gülen movement, a movement that has touched many lives among the conservative people in the heartland of Anatolia.

Prosecutor’s office launches investigation into Şahin’s claim

Şahin claimed that a high-level judge at the Supreme Court of Appeals had acted contrary to legal procedure and contacted Gülen before issuing his final verdict in the case against the businessman several years ago. “What should I do in this case?” asked the judge, according to the claims of the former justice minister. He went on to say that Gülen had allegedly told the judge to do “what justice requires.”

Secular Turks may be in the minority, but they are vital to Turkey’s future

What a decade and a half of AKP experience has shown is that the problem with democracy in Turkey has deep social roots that go way beyond the political power struggles on the surface. Both an authoritarian political culture and conservative social values inhibit the emergence of a pluralist democracy. In the last decade, Muslim conservative elites have shown little interest in establishing a fully fledged democracy. This is not surprising: democracy is largely understood by most Turks to be just about elections.

Neither conservative nor democrat

Media campaigns, accusations and the prime minister’s statements about the leader of the movement are of unprecedented scale in Turkey. Filing records on sympathizers of the Gülen movement, removing them from public offices they happen to occupy, attacking its financial institutions; none of this has ever been seen in the past regarding Islamic movements.

Interview with Kimse Yok Mu Foundation’s President Ismail Cingoz

Kimse Yok Mu Foundation (KYM) President Ismail Cingoz spoke on Turkey’s helping hand extending to the world: “We involve approximately 10 thousand volunteers in our efforts. We have 97 thousand families that we have been consistently providing aid for. We are active in 103 countries regardless of their ethnicity, language, faith or color.” We talked […]

Latest News

Fethullah Gülen’s Condolence Message for South African Human Rights Defender Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Hizmet Movement Declares Core Values with Unified Voice

Ankara systematically tortures supporters of Gülen movement, Kurds, Turkey Tribunal rapporteurs say

Erdogan possessed by Pharaoh, Herod, Hitler spirits?

Devious Use of International Organizations to Persecute Dissidents Abroad: The Erdogan Case

A “Controlled Coup”: Erdogan’s Contribution to the Autocrats’ Playbook

Why is Turkey’s Erdogan persecuting the Gulen movement?

Purge-victim man sent back to prison over Gulen links despite stage 4 cancer diagnosis

University refuses admission to woman jailed over Gülen links

In Case You Missed It

Ministry dismisses honorary consuls, allegedly for ‘Hizmet’ affiliation

Turkish prosecutor demands detention of 21 women, leaving 10 infants unattended

UN-affiliated aid organization becomes new witch hunt target

200 public servants sue PM over ‘parallel state’ statements

Class-B shareholders join objection against Asya decision

Liberia: ‘Go Beyond Secondary Education’- VP Urges Liberia’s Turkish Light International School

Dangerous and unnecessary tension

Copyright 2022 Hizmet News