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Turkey’s deputy prime minister Mehmet Simsek has defended the country’s media crackdown and forthcoming constitutional referendum that some fear will concentrate more power in the hands of president Recep Tayyip Edogan, telling a small gathering in Davos that the government is fighting back from a “vicious attack” on its democracy and is still on track for annual economic growth of 5 to 6 per cent.
“I’m convinced that once the referendum is out of the way, there’s a very high possibility we will go back to factory settings, to more mundane matters,” he said. “I’m not saying we’re perfect… Yes, it looks like a mess, but this is a rough patch.” Investors have reacted to this ‘rough patch’ with deep concern, sending the currency tumbling to record lows and eliciting bombastic responses from the president.
Mr Simsek, a former finance minister who has worked as a banker in London and is widely seen as a rare voice of calm in Turkish politics, has been working hard behind the scenes of the World Economic Forum to try and reassure investors and international partners that the country is not on the brink of a deeper crisis.
Today, he said that July’s attempted coup was “the result of almost 40 years of planning and execution by a religious cult that is power hungry” – a reference to the movement centred on US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. “Sadly this religious cult had a massive media presence and this had to be dealt with.”
He added that Turkey remains committed to tighter relations with the EU. “We don’t need the EU for handouts, we don’t need it for help, we need it as a source of inspiration, an anchor.”