Erdogan’s “charm”

Erdogan’s “charm”

Ankara, November 10, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Manolis Kostidis

When in 2002 Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took office, no one expected that after 13 years he will still lead with an iron hand a country of 78 million inhabitants. There are many reasons why the Justice and Development Party (AKP) received on the snap election of November 1 the impressive rate of 49.4%. But the focus is mainly on the “charm” the Turkish leader keeps exerting on a large part of voters (almost one in two), as well as to his next political steps.

Despite the negative predictions of pollsters, the chaos that was prevalent in the country, with the terrorist attacks, the conflicts with the PKK and refugee problem, convinced almost one in two Turkish citizens to supported the AKP, the party founded and controlled by current President of Turkey.

“In times of crisis the popularity of the leader who is already in power is strengthened. This was seen with Bülent Ecevit, following the invasion of Cyprus, with Turgut Özal after the Evren coup… After the power vacuum, the people chose the safe solution turned once again to Erdogan”, says an executive of a large turkish newspaper.

Actually, almost all political analysts agree that in the period between the June and November election, a lot have changed and that is the reason the AKP raised its rates by 9 percentage points and managed to get 4.5 million more votes, compared to the previous election. This is the biggest observed shift of voters in Turkey, in such a short time.

Traditional Values and Fear

Erdogan was elected at a time when Turkey was mired in economic crisis. In the first decade of his rule, Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) have focused their efforts on exiting from the vise of the IMF and on the path of development. Increase in the income of Turks, improved living standards and a series of major projects – roads, hospitals, schools, airports have lifted Erdogan in the eyes of the people. At the same time, religious freedom for millions of Turks who were oppressing their religious sentiment during the reign of secular governments, made him a folk hero. A large section of the voters of the Islamic-conservative AKP, still sees in Erdogan their leader, the son of the coast guard, who grew in Rize and who with his four brothers came to Istanbul for a better life… They see the poor teenager who was working and at the same time was studying in a religious high school; who studied and escaped mediocrity, without abandoning the traditional Muslim values.

The BBC described him in one of his articles as a “political survivor”, explaining the high rates of his party after so many years, but also his own, in the presidential elections last year. From the seat of the presidency he chose Ahmet Davutoglu, a low-key political, as prime minister, knowing that essentially he is holding the reigns of Turkey.

After the electoral victory of the AKP, in which Erdogan himself contributed to creating a climate of insecurity after June, the issue in everybody’s mind right now is the policy that the new AKP government will follow and if Erdogan will try to change the Constitution to concentrate all the executive powers.

The policy of intimidation and terror that prevailed in the last five months may have benefited the AKP in the election, but Turkey has turned into a country of increased risk. “Vote for us so that the white Renault Toros won’t appear again”, declared the AKP officials, reminding that with these vehicles, in the 1990s, thousands of citizens were arrested and disappeared forever! The notion of return to the “dark’ 90s”, with terrorism having caused the deaths and disappearances of tens of thousands of people, the action of paramilitary organisations and with the economy in tatters, are still haunting the older Turks.

The seasoned columnist for Hürriyet, Ahmet Hakan, in an article explains the reasons for the victory of the AKP and the huge difference (an increase of almost 10 points) from the June election, “in June, 60% of Turkish people voted for the opposition parties . But they showed no sign of cooperation and voters turned to the safe solution of the AKP. Meanwhile, the PKK started its activity in the east, while the pro-Kurdish HDP did not condemn this practice… All these factors contributed to the increase in the votes of AKP”.

Within five months, about 400 people (civilians and soldiers) were killed in Turkey as a result of the conflict with the PKK and the attacks that were attributed to the Islamic State. During this period, the Turkish lira was depreciated by 22% and the Turks feared that the economic crisis of 2000 is on their “doorstep”.

The opposition accuses Erdogan that he set in motion all these negative factors to terrorize the people and blackmailed them for their vote. He responds that everything happened because there was no stable government.

“If the nationalist MHP had showed willingness to cooperate with the AKP, if the Kurdish HDP did not have as its sole goal to fight Erdogan, the AKP might not have seen such an impressive increase of its rates. The situation in the economy, the stagnation of the banks, have led the people to the safe solution of Erdogan”, says Yigit Bulut, the chief advisor of the Turkish President.