Turkey lifts state of emergency but nothing much has changed, analysts warn

Key Points
  • Turkey lifted a two-year state of emergency in the early hours of Thursday morning.
  • Turkey first declared a state of emergency in July 2016 after a failed military coup to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that left over 250 people dead and thousands injured.

Turkey lifted a two-year state of emergency in the early hours of Thursday morning, state media reported, but analysts said the country is in economic and political trouble.

Turkey first declared a state of emergency on July 20, 2016 after a failed military coup to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that left over 250 people dead and thousands injured in the chaos that ensued.

This state of emergency was lifted at 1 a.m. local time Thursday (6 p.m. ET Wednesday), Anadolu news agency reported.

A man holding a Turkish flag.
Uriel Sinai | Getty Images

Erdogan instigated a crackdown on political opponents and critics following the coup attempt and thousands of people, including teachers and civil servants, members of the media, judiciary and military were arrested and imprisoned in the aftermath.

Two years on, Erdogan remains in charge and is more powerful than ever, after narrowly winning a constitutional referendum in April 2017 that granted him an “executive presidency,” abolishing the role of prime minister and parliamentary system of government.

The move granted Erdogan extensive powers, allowing the president to issue decrees that form or regulate ministries and to appoint or dismiss civil servants without parliamentary approval. He can also draft the budget, dissolve parliament (although this would trigger early elections) and appoint senior judges.

The change also meant that a president would only be able to serve a maximum of two five-year terms. Worryingly for the principle of central bank independence, Erdogan can also appoint the head of the central bank, deputies and monetary policy committee members for a four-year period.

Erdogan said the executive presidency wpuld make government more efficient, more secure and more democratic. Critics said the changes have allowed Erdogan to strengthen his grip on power and shut down opponents.

Nothing much has changed

While the lifting of a state of emergency sounds like a move in the right direction, analysts say that not much will change in Turkey.

William Jackson, senior emerging market economist at Capital Economics, told CNBC that lifting the state of emergency is generally positive but concerns over the direction of travel in Turkish politics and economic policy remain.

"Although the lifting of the state of emergency is symbolically positive, in that the clampdown we saw after the coup has come to an end... I'm not sure this is going to make a very big difference," he said.

"From an economic perspective, lots of people are looking at Erdogan holding the levers over economic policy-making too. Erdogan has been influencing the central bank for five or six years now, but he now has the ability to appoint a central bank governor. The path which policy making is taking in general is quite worrying."

Robin Bew, chief executive of the Economist Intelligence Unit, tweeted that “Turkey’s emergency law may be ending, but it won't feel like it."


George Dyson, the lead Germany and Turkey analyst at Control Risks, agreed. “In some ways, the new presidential system of government gives him (Erdogan) more power, more clearly than the state of emergency did,” Dyson told CNBC on Thursday.

“I wouldn’t go so far to say that this is a ‘state of emergency mark two’ situation, but the practices and attitudes of the government will continue like before.”

The European Union’s spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy, Maja Kocijancic, published a statement Thursday saying that while the EU welcomed the lifting of the state of emergency, “At the same time, we believe the adoption of new legislative proposals granting extraordinary powers to the authorities and retaining several restrictive elements of the state of emergency would dampen any positive effect of its termination.”

“We also expect Turkey to follow through and reverse all measures that continue to impact negatively on the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and the fundamental freedoms that are at the core of any democratic state."