The tension between Turkey’s top businesses and its president spiked as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD), specifically targeting Tuncay Özilhan, one of the country’s richest individuals, who criticized the system of governance, Bloomberg reported.
“What was Turkey’s per capita income 17 years ago, and what is it now?” Erdoğan said late Thursday during a speech in İstanbul. “Economically, at what level were you at the time and where are you now?” he asked, referring to Ozilhan. “Since then, how much has your company grown and how much stronger have your friends become? Don’t you ever assess this?”
Özilhan this week made comments seen as criticism of Turkey’s economy and governance. The 71-year-old head of the Anadolu Group said Turkey either abides by universal principles of democracy or “it becomes something else.”
Turkey must “overcome issues in its system of governance,” he said on May 15, a thinly veiled criticism of the executive presidential system that concentrates power in the hands of Erdoğan.
“I know how you were doing 17 years ago, and I know how you’re doing now,” Erdoğan retorted. “If needed, I can expose that. I know how to bring those who are hitting Turkey from the inside to account.”
Erdoğan’s warnings point to his increasing intolerance of dissent ahead of a re-run of the mayoral election in İstanbul on June 23. His party lost the initial election in Turkey’s largest city and commercial center by a narrow margin in March.