Erdogan’s nationalistic rhetoric and the fear of a defeat in Ankara and Istanbul
When in 2002, Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power, Turkey’s per capita Gross Income was just USD 3,500. With an impressive economic policy and loyalty to the rules of the free economy, the GDP per capita in 2013 reached USD 12,500. Since then, the Turkish economy has experienced lower growth rates with the worst figures observed in 2018. The Turks have become poorer and their income has dropped to USD 9,385, basically returning to the levels of 2008. This fact is not lost in the government camp and that is why they are trying to direct the common opinion in Turkey towards other issues, in view of the municipal elections on March 31.
The president of the country, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, holds two to three political rallies and performs a television appearance on a daily basis. In his statements, he speaks of the possibility that Hagia Sophia might open as a mosque instead of a museum that is today, blames the opposition, claiming that it has ties with the PKK, uses nationalist terms “the giaour that were thrown into the Ismir sea”. At the same time, he speaks of a change in the construction of major cities, and accuses Istanbul of having been filled with skyscrapers, despite the fact that he has been in control of the municipality since 1994.
Pockets are emptying
But while trying to set up his own agenda in their everyday lives, Turkish citizens feel the signs of the crisis that hits the door of Turkey despite the assurances of the government officials.
Inflation has exceeded 25%, bank interest rates are rising to 20%, hundreds of companies filed for protection from creditors, construction companies are considered to have reached one step from bankruptcy and the Turkish lira since the beginning of the year has fallen by 12% and almost 40% by 2017. The expensiveness is felt at all levels and that is why in the last two months the state market stalls have opened selling tomatoes, potatoes and fruits at prices below cost.
The Ozal syndrome in 1989
The government camp is afraid of those voters who vote on the basis of their economic prosperity and punish without being noticed. Such a phenomenon had happened in 1989 when the Prime Minister at the time, Turgut Ozal, who was believed to be dominating the political scene, saw his party receive just 21.75% of the vote in the municipal elections. The voters punished him for the inflation that exceeded 50%, which meant that despite the economic growth the Turks were poorer.
Of course, the ruling AKP’s rates will not reach that point and will certainly be over 45%, but the chance of defeat in three major municipalities in Turkey is a nightmare they are trying to avoid. Polls show that there is a strong chance that Recep Tayyip Erdogan will lose the municipality of Ankara, which has been under his control since 1994. Provided nothing unforeseen happens, the opposition’s candidate Mansour Yavas, will be the winner.
In Istanbul, the ruling party is marginally ahead, but almost all pollsters agree that the AKP-MHP alliance will show a reduction in votes over the presidential election in 2018 when it got 52.6% of the vote. To boost Istanbul, Erdogan has asked former Prime Minister and Parliament Speaker, Binali Yildirim, be the government’s candidate in the coming election, and this fact alone is what keeps the opposition from placing the City under its control.
According to the KOMSAR Pollster Company, AKP’s alliance with MHP in the municipality of Ankara will get 46.11% while the CHP-Iyi Parti alliance 51.88%.
In Istanbul, KOMSAR predicts a marginal victory for the AKP-MHP with 50.2%.
The control of the municipalities in Turkey is of great importance as they have enormous responsibilities, from infrastructure, transport, garbage collection to water supply as well as gas supply, which helps to create customer relations and opens the way for tens of thousands of recruits.
The nationalist rhetoric of the last few days is considered to be a result of an attempt to reunite conservative voters.
The borrowing cost has reached 1000%
The Turkish lira has entered new “adventures” with the country’s borrowing costs rising to 1000% on the London swap markets.
The sharp increase is believed to be an attempt by the Turkish government to prevent the depreciation of the lira. Unlike the two previous days and despite the high interest rates, the lira was fell by 3.5% on Wednesday. On Thursday, the devaluation reached 3%.
“To those who engage in such activities on the eve of the election, we know your identities. We know what you all are doing. Be aware that after the election we will send you a heavy bill”, Erdogan said.
However, most economic analysts estimate that after the municipal elections, the Turkish government should take reorganization measures. After Sunday’s elections, Erdogan will not have αν election for the next 4.5 years. So he will have the opportunity to implement any economic reorganization program. He did so in 2008. But then investors trusted the Turkish economy and institutions.
Experienced economic analysts estimate that Turkey’s economic future will be determined by US-Turkey relations. Perhaps that is why Erdogan in his televised interview said that after the elections, he will either go meet with Donald Trump or the American President will visit Turkey. However, the first trip abroad is expected to be in Moscow in early April. The issue of the buy of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system and the way Ankara will handle it will also determine relations with the US and the economic future of the country, which is in direct need of new investments.
In the polls, however, the result is determined by the people, who will decide not on the basis of geostrategic developments but according to how much money goes in their pockets. Municipal elections are often a warning message without any impact on the country’s governance. And because Erdogan and his staff fear the punishment or the warning vote, they have invested in their pre-election speech on the theory of the “country’s survival”./ibna