Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Erdogan Losing Power In Turkey?

Four immediate consequences of Erdogan’s loss of Istanbul - Opinion


You always said Erdogan won’t leave if he loses an election,” said a senior AKP official to me on the night of the June 23 election.

Yes, I was wrong. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will go, as he keeps losing one election after another.
In the eyes of millions in Turkey, Erdogan was invincible. That is no longer the case. Erdogan did not just lose Istanbul for the second time on June 23, he lost his image as undefeated.

On May 6, when the Turkish Supreme Election Board decided to annul the mayoral elections for Istanbul, Erdogan was happy that a revote was accepted by the public without much fuss. Ramadan was also an amazing opportunity for Erdogan to rally his base. He had successfully repeated general elections before and turned the tide, so why not now?

The polls showed Erdogan’s gradual loss day by day. The gap between the two candidates on March 31 was about 13,000-14,000 votes, while now it has surpassed 800,000. The opposition won 9% more votes than the government in Istanbul’s repeat election. Erdogan campaigned with the entire state apparatus on his side, including most media outlets, venues, and funds. Out of 39 subunits of Istanbul on March 31, AKP had won 23. Fast-forward to June 23 and AKP holds a majority in only 11 districts.

Istanbul’s mayoral seat is the heart of politics for Erdogan. First, because that is where he started his political life. Second, it is a source of major income for AKP’s crony system. Third, Istanbul, with its 16 million population, is the reflection of Turkey. Istanbul is a city of immigrants. Only about three million of its current population is from Istanbul. The majority of Istanbul voters were either born outside of the city or view another city as their original hometown. “Losing Istanbul means losing Turkey” is a slogan Erdogan repeated frequently. He is right. On June 23, Erdogan lost Turkey officially and undeniably.

WHAT CAN we expect from this loss?

First, Erdogan lost two crucial groups: significantly pro-AKP, Islamist or pious voters and Kurds.

Second, Erdogan lost Istanbul by 9%, Ankara by almost 4% and Izmir by almost 20%. Even though living in his 1,100-room palace in Ankara has isolated the president from the public significantly, the reality can no longer be sugarcoated. Turkey’s love and dedication for Erdogan is fast diminishing and almost over.

The loss of popularity for a populist leader means tightening security. Although most people expect Erdogan to soften up his tone, I expect he will be flexing his muscles.

Third, we can expect Erdogan to curtail municipal powers through presidential decrees. This is already in place, where touristic locations that are under special protection have had their local management policies completely reformed. All powers about zoning, for example, in the Cappadocia region are now in the hands of the president. A similar trend is expected for major cities, which are a significant source of income.

Finally, as the recession deepens, unemployment increases significantly in Turkey, particularly among young educated adults. The cost of living, inflation and food prices all have increased exponentially, and the government has shown no signs of drawing up a proper fiscal plan to correct its mistakes. To the contrary, Erdogan’s latest financial appointments show he cares more about protecting his own family members and pleasing his own party elites than caring for the health of national economy.

Justice has been a major quest for the Turkish public, as Erdogan’s government has turned domestic laws into its own plaything. Erdogan and his men deeply fear that they will be prosecuted. In order to minimize such a risk, they change the laws and regulations frequently – just so that their own acts will be considered lawful. Hence, I expect injustice to spread fast in the short run.

No comments: