His message has found support in a country that has grown used to his Trump-style economic nationalism — to the despair of his critics.
“This crisis is totally the fault of Erdogan, but he blames America and people believe him,” said a 70-year-old retired teacher who gave her name as Muzeyyen. “Erdogan is just like Trump — he tells people what they want to hear.”
On a fixed retirement pension but facing rising food prices, she said she would save money by not buying new clothes until the economy improves.
Former lawmaker Baris Yarkadaş, who is now spokesman for the opposition CHP party, said Turkey’s crisis was caused by out-of-control government spending on construction contracts that mainly benefit Erdogan’s allies.
“This investment is only to make money for his family or friends,” he said. “If you look at the media, there is no sign of a crisis, but when people started to feel the crisis for themselves, Erdogan made an issue of this priest, Brunson.”
Some Turks don’t know who to believe.
“America is hurting us,” said Celekoglu, the fruit seller. But when asked about Erdogan, he replied, “They are both wrong.”
It isn’t bad news all round.
While cities like Bursa struggle, Turkey’s Mediterranean coastal resorts have enjoyed a record-setting summer as sun-seeking vacationers took advantage of the weak lira. Hotels in the southern cities of Antalya and Bodrum reported near total occupancy.
What crisis? Istanbul trader Sunay Alo insists business is good.Danielle Villasana / for NBC News
Turkey’s exports were also in a strong position before the White House sanctions and tariffs; machinery exports reached $11 billion in the first eight months of 2018, while steel exports rose 5.8 percent.
In Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, where tourists outnumber local shoppers, there was less pessimism about the economy.
Mehmet, 17, a stall helper who was counting a fistful of U.S. dollars outside a currency exchange store, said his only problem was keeping abreast of fluctuating rates.
“Some people buy from us in dollars,” he said. “If we pick the wrong day to change the money, we get a lot less.”
Abdulselam Emir, 37, who sells textiles, said his income was significantly lower than last year, squeezed by the rising cost of materials such as cotton. “These cushion covers are 30 lira each. Two months ago they were only 15,” he said.
But another trader, Sunay Alo, 47, said he did not believe there was a widespread crisis.
“I do not trust those who say there is a crisis,” he said. “Look at all these people, look at all the money they are spending. The only problem is the U.S. dollar, and we are strong enough to deal with that.”
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