Last week in Turkey: debates about the curfew and the signal for a new economic model

By Onur Sinan Güzaltan

As of this week, 1,101 people have died of the Coronavirus in Turkey, with the total number of confirmed cases reaching 52,167 and 5,138 more people having tested positive with the virus in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry announced on Twitter.

According to the official announcements, a total of 2,965 patients have recovered and have been discharged from the hospital since the beginning of the outbreak while 1,626 patients are currently being treated at the intensive care units.


From the beginning of the pandemic, the Turkish public has debated the restrictions, measures and idea of a national curfew.

Last Friday just 2 hours before midnight, a weekend curfew that covers 31 of the 81 provinces, was announced by the authorities.

Millions of people were already in the street buying food and necessities when authorities announced that bakeries, hospitals, pharmacies and workplaces producing healthcare products and medical supplies would continue to operate during the curfew.

According to state-owned Anadolu Agency, “The curfew will not be applied for people who will be carrying out burial procedures for their first-degree-relatives and those who have an appointment for blood and plasma donation for the Turkish Red Crescent.”

In Istanbul and other cities, after the announcement of the curfew, images of crowds in front of bakeries and markets were shared by residents.

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Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu called on people to remain calm but his calls were not enough to stop people from going out without respecting the social distancing measures.

The scientific authorities suggest that the air of panic ahead of the curfew might accelerate the spread of the virus.

Opposition parties have criticized the government for the timing of the announcement, leaving people with only a few hours to spare ahead of a weekend.


The most important event of the week was President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s speech where he  signaled a new economic orientation for the Turkish state.

In his speech, Erdogan gave some examples of the economic measures taken by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in the times of the Turkish War of Independence, including the seizure of the private property by the state.

President Erdogan added; “After this Coronavirus pandemic which we are currently experiencing, it is clear that nothing will be the same in the world, and the era of those who have established a phony welfare order for themselves by exploiting other countries and their peoples is now coming to an end.

It has been revealed once again that the economy is not only made up of money, stock markets, interest rates and speculative instruments; it has been revealed that the actually important thing is a self-sufficient production and a fair distribution of goods and services.”

The AKP government had been applying a neo-liberal policy from the beginning of their first term in 2002, however, Erdogan’s speech suggested a potential new direction.

This new orientation seems to be a more state-centered economic policy, but it is still early to make a decisive analysis about it.

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The coming days, weeks and months will show what Erdogan has in mind for the future of Turkey.