Turkish vote-buying may not mean Erdoğan win – CSM

Turkey’s June elections have been preceded by vote-buying on a colossal scale, with money for pensioners and incentives for home-buyers.

But, despite the windfall, all is not well for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the government he has headed for a decade and a half. A $5.5 billion social handout is putting further stress on an economy and its currency, the lira, which has slumped more than 20 percent this year, the Christian Science Monitor said.

The handouts, although welcome, may not swing opposition voters who oppose the Islam-inspired policies of Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Some Turks, such as Mehmet, a pensioner, can’t afford to buy meat more once a month, rather than their previous weekly allowance, CSM’s Scott Peterson said.

Turkey’s economy teetered on the brink of a currency crisis as the lira slumped last month, forcing a central bank intervention that raised interest rates by almost a third to 17.75 percent. Inflation stands at 12.2 percent, eroding wages. Government economic stimulus, although pushing growth to 7.4 percent in 2017, has widened the country’s current account deficit to the highest in major emerging markets.

Fadi Hakura of Chatham House expects a major economic crisis within 5 years unless the government changes its ways following the presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday. Erdoğan is leading in every poll, though his AKP risks losing its legislative majority in parliament.

“It’s economic populism on steroids, and it indicates Erdoğan and the AKP are exhibiting growing signs of panic,” says Hakura, head of the Turkey Project at Chatham House in London. “If that means pumping five-plus billion dollars into an overheated economy, then so be it.”

Erdoğan has won successive elections and nationwide referendums by helping the country’s poor and improving living standards. Social care has grown exponentially, as has the country’s health system and infrastructure. That means, despite his mistakes on the economy, many of Erdoğan’s core supporters are unwavering, even as the economy shows signs of major stress, Peterson said.