Erdogan Crackdown Continues Before ‘Important’ Announcement

  • Faculty heads at all universities ordered to resign, TRT says
  • Turkey cabinet, security council to meet on Wednesday, AA says

Turkey ordered faculty heads at all the country’s universities to resign, a day before President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes an “important announcement” and as authorities expanded their roundup of thousands of soldiers with alleged links to the weekend’s failed coup.

The lira plunged after state-run TRT reported that Turkey’s Council of Higher Education is seeking the resignation of 1,577 deans at both state and private universities -- a measure reminiscent of a coup in 1980, after which the council was set up to increase state control over education. Erdogan refused to elaborate on the objective of Wednesday’s announcement, which a presidential official said would boost social cohesion and Turkey’s democratic credentials.

Erdogan speaks on July 19.

Photographer: Elif Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

As prime minister in 2014, Erdogan signed a law “ending terrorism and strengthening the unity of society,” which aimed at providing a legal framework for talks between the government and the separatist Kurdish PKK group. The peace process unraveled in July last year after the government accused the PKK of carrying out attacks in Turkey, and responded with airstrikes against its positions in neighboring Iraq.

Thousands of Turkish police officers, soldiers and PKK militants have been killed over the past year, as Turkey’s security forces and rebels engaged in urban warfare in cities across the country’s southeast.

Ahead of Wednesday’s meetings, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim thanked the Kurdish political party HDP, or Peoples’ Democratic Party, for opposing the failed military putsch on the weekend. All of Turkey’s main political parties refused to support it.

Turkish authorities have vowed to crush those behind the coup, and have announced the arrests of more 6,000 soldiers and suspension of thousands of police officers and judges from duty. The cabinet and National Security Council are expected to deliberate on further actions against the plotters, who Erdogan and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have said are followers of the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen accused of masterminding attacks on the Turkish government.

Wednesday’s announcement will be about a “new framework in line with the constitution” that will allow the prosecution of coup plotters in a more efficient way, Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli told BloombergHT television.

Academic Dispute

TRT didn’t give a reason for the university purge, while calls to the educational body, known in Turkish as YOK, were not immediately returned. Erdogan clashed with academics earlier this year, when more than 1,000 of them signed a petition criticizing the government’s handling of the long-running battle with the Kurds and calling for peace.

The latest unrest threatens to further taint Erdogan’s legacy, which is increasingly polarizing. When the AK Party he co-founded took power in 2002, it ended years of turmoil and hyper-inflation and ushered in a period of rapid growth. But recent years have been marred by instability that Erdogan’s opponents blame on the 62-year-old’s quest to consolidate executive power in the presidential office.

Even so, investors bought Turkish assets in recent months, with the benchmark stock index up 15 percent this year as of the close on Friday. Aided by speculation that global interest rates would remain low and optimism over Erdogan’s moves to repair ties with Russia and Israel, the lira had rebounded more than 6 percent from a record low in September.

The coup attempt has hurt that confidence.

The lira fell 1.7 percent to 3.0272 per dollar at 6:03 p.m. in Istanbul, bringing the decline since the close one day prior to the coup attempt to more than 5 percent. The Borsa Istanbul 100 Index dropped 7.1 percent on Monday, the most in three years, and a further 1 percent on Tuesday. Yields on 10-year government bonds have risen for two days.

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