Erdoğan failing in mission to win over Turkey’s youth – columnist

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s popularity among Turkey’s youth has waned during his almost two-decades in power, columnist Burak Bekdil wrote for New York-based newspaper Algemeiner on Monday.

Erdoğan “has not lost a single election,” since his Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, Bekdil said, “but credible recent surveys indicate that Erdogan’s 18-year reign has failed to achieve his broader political mission.”

In 2012, the Turkish president announced his mission to raise pious generations that adhered to Islamic teachings.

“Do you expect us to raise an atheist youth, as a party with a conservative democratic identity?” Erdoğan had asked main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

However, a 2018 OECD survey on education found that 54 percent of Turkey’s students in religious secondary schools did not feel like they belonged, almost double the rate of their peers in non-religious schools, according to Sol news website.

Twenty eight percent of Turks aged 15 to 29 had identified as religious conservative in 2008, according to a study by Turkish pollster Konda, with the ratio dropping to 15 percent in 2018. The same study showed less young people chose to get married, and more married for love instead of arranged marriages when they did.

Last year, Hürriyet newspaper’s columnist Ertuğrul Özkök cited a poll that asked participants how they identified in terms of religion. Some 89 percent said they believed in Allah, “and that he is one,” while the rest expressed non-Islamic views ranging from deistic to atheistic. Özkök said this result was due to a radical shift in the two years prior, when 96 percent of participants said they identified as Muslim.

Bekdil cited further studies, including one by pollster Ipsos that found 12 percent of Turks trusted Islamic clerics, and another by the Social Democracy Foundation (SODEV) that said more than 47 percent of young people who support Erdoğan would leave the country if they had a chance.

“Apparently, Turkey’s lack of freedom, equal opportunity, and social mobility tells young Turks that they would be better off in a Christian country,” Bekdil wrote, citing SODEV poll’s findings that many young people would prefer to live in Switzerland with lesser means over Saudi Arabia with better resources.

The preference could be because the youth know that in Switzerland, “they would not face police interrogation just because they expressed their opinions,” Bekdil cited columnist Elif Çakır as saying.

“Turkey’s demographic evolution defies the dictates of Erdogan’s Islamist social engineering despite his unchallenged popularity, power, and authoritarian rule,” Bekdil said, “the natural outcome of his democratic shortcomings.”