Turkey turned into a caricature under Erdoğan, columnist says

Turkey turned into a caricature state under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s leadership, Burak Bekdil, an Ankara based columnist and a fellow at the Middle East Forum, said in an article for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA). 

Souring economic conditions in Turkey are diminishing Erdoğan’s public popularity, Bekdil said, citing recent opinion polls.

“The spiral of mismanagement has been running at full speed, at times astonishing even Erdoğan loyalists,” he said.

Popular support for Erdoğan’s ruling alliance has fallen to just over 32 percent, according to a survey by pollster Turkey Report conducted in May. Only 26.3 percent of respondents said they would vote for Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) if elections were held in May, while 6 percent of voters backed the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Erdoğan’s junior electoral partner. The survey did not distribute undecided voters among the parties surveyed.

“This is not the Turkey we dreamed of,” said a close Erdoğan aide and a co-founder of the president’s ruling AKP, told BESA, according to Bekdil.

“Turks cannot decide whether to laugh or cry over several cases that hit the headlines within the span of only one month,” he said.

Cem Emre Akıncı, a restaurant owner in Kuşadası on the Aegean coast, only received 4.63 Turkish liras ($0.56) from a government relief program that offered cash support for small businesses affected by COVID-19, Bekdil said.

Other unpopular or perplexing measures included the imposition of an alcohol sales ban as part of lockdown measures announced in late April to curb the spike in COVID-19 infections, Bekdil said.

In May, Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of MHP, proposed shutting down the Constitutional Court.

Some AKP-governed municipalities in Turkey also provided hundreds of grey passports to party loyalists or sold them to their families and friends to illegally emigrate to European Union member countries, especially to Germany, Bekdil said.

Scientists can no longer publish data freely in Turkey, he said, pointing to a criminal complaint against ENAGroup, which started publishing its own inflation figures in September. The Turkish Statistical Institute (TUİK) is underreporting inflation data to avoid “stoking public discontent against the government”, he said.

Bekdil also pointed to an investigation into Ekrem İmamoğlu, the opposition mayor of Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, who ended the AKP and its Islamist predecessors’ 25-year rule at 2019 mayoral elections, for disrespecting an Ottoman Sultan’s tomb.

“Every day, more and more Turks are joining the ranks of the opposition. There is more to Erdoğan’s decline than power fatigue. He will find it very difficult to unite a majority of Turks around the flag and mosque in the presidential elections of 2023,” he said.