ISTANBUL – Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced his resignation on Sunday evening as the effects of the collapse of the economy and the falling currency of the country escalated.
Mr Albayrak said in a personal letter posted on Instagram that he is stepping down for health reasons after five years as finance minister under Mr Erdogan.
His resignation comes a day after the head of the Turkish central bank was replaced. Critics say disastrous economic policies plunged the country’s economy into crisis, and the lira has fallen 30 percent this year.
Mr Albayrak’s departure could also signal a recalibration by Mr Erdogan in response to Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s election in Tuesday’s US presidential election. Part of Mr Albayrak’s portfolio has been nurturing relationships with the White House through his friendship with President Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.
Mr Albayrak and Mr Kushner had maintained contact via WhatsApp and had informal next generation communication between the two leaders that bypassed official protocol and helped Mr Albayrak get a meeting with Mr Trump in the Oval Office last year.
“I think the main reason for his resignation is the collapse of the economy,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish research program at the Washington Institute for Middle East Policy. “But maybe another reason is that the job has expired.”
Mr Erdogan has overcome his growing economic and political troubles in part through the benefits of his friendship with Mr Trump. The country has so far averted sanctions for the purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system and avoided substantial fines against Turkish state bank Halkbank for its role in violating US sanctions against Iran.
A Biden government could be more determined in dealing with Turkey. And Mr Erdogan – who has not yet congratulated Mr Biden on his victory – could act to put the Turkish economy in more stable hands.
Mr Erdogan has appointed Naci Agbal, a former finance minister who is considered a loyal but capable manager, to head the central bank. Mr. Agbal is known for his opposition to Mr. Albayrak’s economic policies for the past two years.
On Sunday there was no official comment on whether Mr Erdogan had received or accepted Mr Albayrak’s offer of resignation. The powerful Turkish television stations did not report on his resignation.
However, social media in Turkey were filled with comments on developments on Sunday evening as supporters urged Mr Erdogan not to accept his son-in-law’s resignation and opponents posted videos of traditional dances in celebration.
Mr Albayrak, who is married to Esra, Mr Erdogan’s eldest daughter, has been viewed as a potential political heir to Mr Erdogan.
However, the tone of the resignation letter indicated a deeply felt disappointment on the part of Mr Albayrak, and he only mentioned the President in passing. Mr. Albayrak thanked his colleagues, God, and the wider Muslim community for allowing him to serve his country, but in particular did not thank Mr. Erdogan.
He also referred diagonally to fighting within the leadership, saying it was difficult to distinguish between friends and enemies and between right and wrong.
Albayrak, 42, earned a degree in business administration from Pace University in New York and was the managing director of the Turkish conglomerate Calik Holdings before joining the Turkish parliament. He joined the cabinet as Minister of Energy in 2015 and was appointed Minister of Finance and Finance in 2018. He essentially became the country’s economic tsar under the newly strengthened presidential system of Mr Erdogan.
But his dealings with the economy were widely criticized as somber. This has gone hand in hand with Mr Erdogan’s increasing interference in central bank and judicial decisions, which has undermined corporate and investor confidence.
As foreign investment has dried up, soaring inflation and unemployment have politically damaged Mr Erdogan, who has long gained popularity by teaching the Turks a bourgeois lifestyle.
That year, Mr Albayrak spent Turkish currency reserves to prop up the lira, which fell to the dollar from 3.5 in 2017 to 8.5. Not only did he fail to stop the decline of the lira, but he also made the exchange rate decline significant several times, saying he was not concerned about the US dollar.
Opposition parties are increasingly calling for early elections to reverse Turkey’s economic decline.
“He will go down in history as the incompetent minister who ruined the Turkish economy,” wrote Aykan Erdemir, former Turkish opposition lawmaker and Turkey program director at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, on Twitter.
Meral Aksener, one of the leaders of an opposition alliance against Mr Erdogan, called on the President to accept Mr Albayrak’s resignation.
“Mr. Erdogan, you are at an intersection,” she wrote in a Twitter post. “Either you choose your nation and do what it takes, or you choose your son-in-law and you will lose at the first ballot box.”