Problems piling up for Turkey’s Erdoğan ahead of polls - analyst

Faced with an array of pressing problems, including a downturn of the economy and  growing calls by Turks to send home 3.6 million Syrian refugees, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan risks losing his grip on Ankara and İstanbul in the March 31 local elections, wrote Thomas Seibert in his Sunday column for the Arab Weekly.

As problems continue to pile up for Turkey’s strongman weeks before important municipal elections, Erdoğan, continues to criss-cross the country, giving several speeches a day to in an effort to amass support for municipal candidates of his Justice and Development Party (AKP), Seibert said.

With the country’s inflation running at more than 20 percent since last September; unemployment standing at more than 12 percent, and the Turkish lira dropping in value against the U.S. dollar, Erdoğan has his work cut out for him.

 Despite the fact that he Turkish president is “a political survivor who spent time in prison for a controversial speech’’ and has faced a bid to close his party and has stared down a coup attempt, Seibert noted, Erdoğan remains a “divisive figure’’ who is revered by millions of followers and rejected by almost as many other voters. 

 Seibert quotes economist Emre Deliveli, who says “things are not going well” for Turkey’s strongman and that Erdoğan’s government was resorting to “unorthodox measures,” to generate funds. Deliveli says Turkey’s Central Bank transferring profits to government coffers in January, three months before the usual date, is one example to this end.

Former AKP bigwigs such as former Prime Minister Abdullah Gül, other former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and former economy minister Ali Babacan are working on a new centre-right party, the Arab Weekly columnist noted. 

This is why a new website called Yeni Bir Parti — A New Party — has recently drawn much attention. It promised a new political organisation that would fight for many things that the AKP set out to do, such as strengthening democracy, the economy and the rule of law. The AKP government was “tired,” the website said, hinting that the people behind the initiative were disenchanted AKP supporters.

The new formation called Yeni Bir Parti — A New Party — has recently drawn much attention, he wrote, citing Abdulkadir Selvi, a columnist known for his close ties to the AKP who said the party would officially be founded after the municipal elections and prepare for the 2023 presidential election.

Hüseyin Çiçek, a Turkey analyst at the Centre for Islam and Law in Europe at the University of Erlangen in Germany, believes that with the way things are a new centre-right party would have a chance in the country, where the AKP has ruled for past 17 years.