Was Turkey’s pre-AKP era the good old days? Columnist asks

A columnist for the secularist newspaper Sözcü has asked older people to tell young people about the good aspects of the pre-Justice and Development Party (AKP) era in Turkey, although others disagree that this was quite so rosy.

Perceptions of the past are important in Turkish elections, because President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has partially built his legitimacy on comparing the present day to a time of chaos, corruption and military diktat he says preceded him. Moreover, many electors will not have any idea about the time before the AKP, as Turkey has a relatively young population and the party has now been in power for 16 years.

“The quality of education was better ... You could even buy the flat you stayed in with your pension... Cities were truly green. They hadn’t been covered in concrete,” columnist Murat Muratoğlu said.

“There wasn’t chicken döner kebab! Döner was made with beef! Everyone could eat beef ... Terrorism ended in 2000. In 2001, there were no soldiers killed.”

Since the AKP came to power however, Turkey’s foreign debts had gone from $130 billion to $450 billion, and household debt had gone up from 13 billion lira ($2.8 billion) to 575 billion, Muratoğlu said.

“More importantly, erotic films were screened on television channels. Today, alcohol, cigarettes and even car brands have been banned.”

Muratoğlu’s observations are in clear contrast to those of a woman interviewed in a vox pop on a pro-government television channel last week who emphasised how much better life had become under the AKP.

“I am 66 years old. I remember the queues for gas canisters well. We used to applaud when the canisters came as though they had come back from the hajj,” she told A Haber.

“We could not buy gas for ready money. Now we live like humans. We go to the hospitals and there are no queues. We go to the pharmacies and we can buy medicine like ladies. I live like a European,” she said.

“No state in the world has done what they have done over the last 16 years.”