May 15 2018

Erdoğan’s strategies to win voters may come back to haunt him - analysis

The moves made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to ensure a victory in the June 24 parliamentary and presidential elections may win him voters; however,  they will come back to haunt him in the long run as Turkey faces a wide array of problems post-elections, says Conn Hallinan an article published on Foreign Policy in Focus.

‘’Erdogan has imprisoned more than 50,000 of his opponents, dismissed 140,000 from their jobs, jailed a presidential candidate, and launched an attack on Syria’s Kurds that is, unfortunately, popular with most Turks,’’ recalls Hallinan, underlining that Erdoğan’s seemingly overwhelming strength isn’t as solid as it appears.

His leading Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) traditional strong has been the economy, however, with 11 percent unemployment, rising debts and record-breaking inflation, which was 12 percent in 2017, Erdoğan is left with little to work with.

‘’Up until now, the government has managed to keep people happy by handing out low interest loans, pumping up the economy with subsidies, and giving bonuses to pensioners. But the debt keeps rising, and investment — particularly the foreign variety — is lagging,’’ Hallinan points out. ‘’The Turkish economy appears headed for a fall, and Erdogan wants to secure the presidency before that happens.’’

And then there is the issue of Kurdish voters who make up between 15-20 percent of the electorate. Ever since Kurdish-based People’s Democratic Party (HDP) broke the 10 percent threshold and denied the AKP a majority in parliament in the 2015 elections, the AKP has declared a war against them.

‘’Kurdish deputies were imprisoned, Kurdish mayors were dismissed, Kurdish language signs were removed, and the Turkish army demolished the centers of several majority-Kurdish cities,’’ Hallinan explains.

Add to that ongoing military operation into the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin and it appears very difficult to convince the Kurds that Erdoğan is an option.

Meanwhile, the Turkish President has managed to alienate Turkey’s neighbors. ‘’He’s in a tense standoff with Greece over some tiny islands in the Aegean Sea. He’s at loggerheads with a number of European countries that have banned him from electioneering among their Turkish populations for the June 24 vote. And he’s railing against NATO for insulting Turkey,’’ the author notes.

The June 24 elections, set to take place under what the author describes as ‘’martial law,’’might not be a “slam dunk,’’ as the Turkish president faces an array of challenges from the downward spiralling economy, troubles in Syria to a possible U.S. confrontation with Iran down south.

Turkey’s full presidential system of government, approved in a controversial referendum last year, is set to go into effect after June 24. Turkey currently has a parliamentary system of government. The Turkish opposition has vowed to dump the new presidential system and return power to parliament if elected.