AKP voters increasingly unhappy with Turkish economy

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has stayed in power for 17 years by creating one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, but the party of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is now facing its toughest test yet: economic trouble.

Last year, Turkey experienced a diplomatic row with the United States, which helped the lira lose about a third of its value. High inflation now stands at about 20 percent, while borrowing costs and loan defaults are rising.

Even supporters of the AKP and its far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) allies are unhappy with the economic outlook ahead of local elections on March 31.

Pollster Istanbul Ekonomi Araştırma (IE) spoke to 1,500 people across Turkey last month and found that 56 percent of voters who voted for the AKP last June saw the country’s economy as in “bad” or “very bad” condition. This figure goes up to 84 percent among MHP supporters, according to the survey.

Turkey Economy

The head of IE, Can Selçuki, said low to mid-income AKP voters were hit by food price inflation in November, which could impact their March vote.

“As economists we saw that some things were going badly heading into the June 24 elections; however, inflation had not quite hit households yet … the situation took a turn for the worse after June 24, ” Selçuki said.

Turkey was hit by a currency crisis between May and August last year, in which the lira lost as much as 40 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar. The crisis spurred inflation, which is currently at 20.3 percent, much higher than the official target of 5 percent.

“We now see how much households are being affected by inflation on food. We also see a dramatic change in the perception of the Turkish economy for AKP supporters,” Selçuki said.

While 11.6 percent of AKP voters thought the economy was “very bad’’ in August, this number rose to 35.2 percent in December. Those who found it “bad” from rose from 20 to 21 percent.

Meanwhile, MHP supporters paint a much darker picture of the country’s economy. While 9.8 percent of MHP voters in August found the economy worse than the year before, this figure shot up to 53.3 percent in December. Those who found the economy better than the year before fell by more than half, to 7.1 percent from 16.8 percent.

In response to the question, “who do you think is most suited to solve Turkey’s economic problems?”, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan came out top with 33.7 percent of voters, but the figure was down from 46.8 percent in August.

Turkey poll

While Erdoğan remains the leader most trusted to sort out the economy, 31 percent say a new leader is needed, according to the IE survey. Leftist main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) former presidential candidate Muharrem İnce and Centre-right Good Party Leader Meral Akşener came in second and third place, respectively, with  11.7 percent and 7.5 percent support.

Selçuki said party loyalties would play less of a roll in the March polls. The MHP is supporting Erdoğan’s AKP candidates in local elections in three key cities.

“The results of the local elections are determined 30 to 40 percent by who the candidates are. But we know there is an unknown dynamic at play here. During the June 24 elections, you could have been a MHP supporter who could have voted for the far-right nationalist party, but that is not the case for March. We are going to see how an MHP supporter reacts when they are not given the option of voting for their own party,’’ Selçuki said.