Erdogan in Turkey could be in big trouble

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin shake hands during a press conference in Moscow on March 5, 2020. Photo: Pavel Golovkin / Pool via Reuters.

The Turkish Islamists’ first long-term governance experience, now in its 19th year, has turned the country into a caricature.

With annual inflation and interest rates close to 20%, youth unemployment at 30%, and annual per capita income falling to just $ 7,500, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s popularity faces an unprecedented decline . Pollsters released new data which for the first time put its approval rating below 30%. According to the MetroPOLL research house, 46.5% of Turks say they would never vote for Erdogan against 35.3% in December 2019.

“This is not the Turkey we dreamed of,” a close associate of Erdogan and co-founder of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) told BESA Perspectives in surprisingly courageous remarks. The spiral of mismanagement is in full swing, sometimes surprising even Erdogan’s followers. Turks can’t decide whether to laugh or cry over several of the headlines that have hit the headlines in the space of just a month.

COVID relief

Cem Emre Akıncı, owner of a restaurant in KuÅŸadası on the Aegean coast, applied for a special government assistance program that offered cash assistance to small businesses affected by COVID-19. Akıncı completed his application, containing all the necessary documents to qualify for the aid. Erdogan’s government received the request and made a deposit to his account of 4.63 Turkish lira, or $ 0.56. “I hope this money,” Akıncı commented funny, “won’t ruin my moral compass.”

Stealth alcohol ban

The Ankara government announced on April 29 that it would apply full lockdown rules until May 17. Then, in a move that displayed his usual Islamist reflex, he added alcoholic beverages to a list of products banned for sale on supermarket shelves. As analysts tried to grasp the logic of linking alcohol consumption to COVID-19 (cigarette sales were free), the government announced a list of other products inexplicably placed on the prohibition list in an apparent attempt to camouflage his Islamist motivations: porcelain, cutlery, kitchen utensils, toys, craft supplies, stationery, home textiles, garden furniture and car accessories.

Closure of the Supreme Court

In early May, Erdogan’s coalition partner, ultranationalist leader Devlet Bahçeli, announced his proposals for a new constitution. “This constitutional proposal is the democratic torch of the next 100 years, an initiative of our people to build and reclaim the future,” Bahçeli proudly declares. ad. Except that one of his 100 constitutional proposals is to close the Supreme Court.

Service passports for human trafficking

The German authorities have undertaken a investigation on hundreds of Turkish nationals suspected of having entered German territory with illegally obtained service passports. This “gray” passport allows visa-free entry into many countries and is usually issued to national athletes or officials who must be abroad to perform their duties.

It appears that some AKP-controlled municipalities provided hundreds of gray passports to party loyalists or sold them to family members and friends who used them to migrate to EU countries, mainly Germany.

“Think of a state… whose official service passport is now a source of suspicion at the gates of immigration abroad,” wrote columnist Mehmet Y. Yılmaz.

Scientists can’t publish data

It is an open secret that Turkey’s official statistics agency TUIK has long published falsified inflation figures to avoid stoking public discontent with the government. Economists say the country’s real inflation rates are at least double the official figures. As accusations of underreporting price data peaked, an independent inflation research group ENAGroup began publishing its own data in September.

In May, TUIK filed a criminal complaint against ENAGroup for releasing alternative inflation data. The government office demanded that ENAGroup be fined for “deliberately defaming” the official statistical institution and “misleading public opinion”.

“For the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic,” said Treasury and Finance Minister Lütfi Elvan, “the group aims to” damage and discredit the Turkish Statistical Institute “by disseminating misleading data used by opposition parties “.

Disrespecting a Sultan’s Tomb

Since opposition figure Ekrem ImamoÄŸlu won the Istanbul mayoral race in 2019, ending the 25-year Islamist rule in Turkey’s largest city, he has been the object of the wrath of senior government officials, including Erdogan himself. The central government suspended ImamoÄŸlu’s charitable campaigns, including the sale of cheap bread to the poorest citizens.

In the last episode, the Home Office launched a investigation to ImamoÄŸlu for “disrespecting the tomb of Sulhan Mehmet II” – the resting place of the Ottoman Sultan who conquered Istanbul in 1453. An investigation was opened and the mayor of Istanbul was ordered to make a statement.

How did this offense go? In 2020, ImamoÄŸlu visited the tomb and was pictured with his hands clasped behind his back.

“In my opinion”, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu mentionned, “this [behavior] is an offense.

“I feel so much shame on behalf of the minister”, replied Imamoglu.

Every day more and more Turks are joining the ranks of the opposition. Erdogan’s decline is not just about power fatigue. It will be very difficult to unite a majority of Turks around the flag and the mosque in the presidential elections of 2023.

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist. He writes regularly for the Gatestone Institute and Defense News and is a member of the Middle East Forum.

A version of this article was originally published by the BESA Center.

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