President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Fights for Survival with Strategy of Hope and Fear

When President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to victory for the first time, he launched a campaign of fear and hope to promise economic revival and save Turkey from rival politicians who brought “poverty, hunger, hunger.” Expanded.

Twenty years later, the president who has towered over the nation more than any other leader since the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, is deploying the same strategy. But this time, Turkey’s “talented” politicians are fighting for their political lives by spearheading a severe cost-of-living crisis that many claim is their fault.

True to his populist and divisive style, his campaign strategy ahead of Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections is to mount a ferocious assault on opponents, tying the nation’s provided a number of state subsidies, including wage increases for the sector. days before the vote.

At a typical event for his supporters on Sunday, amid roars from the large crowd, President Erdogan Without any clear evidence, he accused the main opposition candidate Kemal Kultidalor of being “LGBT-leaning”, called him a “drunk” and swaggered onto the stage wagging his finger.

But signs of the battle Erdoğan faces include Kurti Dalor trailing in most polls in the final week of the campaign, inflation surpassing 40% and the lira hitting a record low. , domestic economic stagnation has become dominant.

Supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attend rally in Istanbul
Erdogan supporters at a rally in Istanbul © Hannah McKay/Reuters

More than 50% of the votes required to avoid running for president after Muharrem Ince, the minority candidate who lost to President Erdogan in 2018, decided to withdraw from the presidential race three days before the vote. may be more likely to obtain off.

Erdogan, who has served three terms as prime minister and is seeking a third term as president, was already facing the most united opposition in years. Kulcidalor leads a coalition of six decentralized political parties united to oust the strongmen responsible for the sinking. economic with unconventional policies.

But even Erdogan’s critics and opposition lawmakers warn that betting on Erdogan is unwise. Erdogan has bounced back from a string of setbacks and remains one of the most popular politicians in hyperpolarized Turkey.

“People want someone who can rule Turkey in turbulent times. Erdogan says, ‘I’m the only one who can lead this ship to safe harbor in stormy weather,'” Washington said. Asr Aidintashbash, a researcher at the Brookings Institution, a think tank based in

Once nicknamed Imam Beckenbauer, an allusion to German soccer star Franz Beckenbauer, football-mad Erdogan has risen to national prominence since becoming mayor of Istanbul in 1994. I have plotted to win the next election.

His political ambitions were suspended in 1998. He was sentenced to prison for inciting “religious hatred” for publicly reciting the poem “The minaret is our bayonet” in an openly secular state.

The conviction further brightened Erdogan’s appeal to conservative and devout voters in central Anatolia, Turkey, a large segment of society around which Erdogan’s support is centered. After founding the Islamist-rooted AKP in 2001 and taking power a year later, he paved the way for marginalized religious conservatives to play a larger role in the secular republic.

People try to stop tanks in Ankara, July 2016
People try to stop a tank in Ankara during an attempted coup against Erdogan in July 2016 © Burhan Ozbilici/AP

The first decade of Erdogan’s regime, turkey It enjoyed a period of prosperity as per capita economic output soared and the government invested heavily in infrastructure, sparking a construction boom financed by cheap credit. A new class of billionaires has emerged, many from religious centers, who have secured lucrative government contracts thanks to the AKP’s links with its patronage network.

But as Erdogan and his party began to dominate the political arena, concerns grew about Erdogan’s authoritarian leanings. These concerns came to the fore in 2013, when they violently cracked down on the Gezi Park protests that began in Istanbul but turned into a national movement.

Three years later, after surviving a failed coup, it stepped up its crackdown and launched a sweeping purge of the military, civil servants, academia and Kurdish dissidents. Since replacing Turkey’s parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful executive branch after forcing a constitutional referendum in 2017, he has deepened his control over the state’s full range of weapons.

Many, both inside and outside Turkey, are now wondering how this tycoon, who has spent years concentrating power, and the institutions he has sought to bend to his will, will react if he loses. thinking.

“If [Kılıçdaroğlu] Victory by about 2 percentage points, which is huge, the country begins to move post-Erdogan [mode]. Closer than that. . . Then Erdogan may start playing practical jokes,” said Selim Kol, an analyst at Ankara-based think tank Tepah.

Erdogan sharpened his political teeth when opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu won the 2019 Istanbul mayoral election, but the Supreme Electoral Council annulled the results after the president alleges voter fraud. made it Imamoglu won re-election, but many voters saw the incident as evidence that election officials had bowed to political pressure.

Kemal Kultidalor, central, six-party opposition coalition presidential candidate
Kemal Kultidalor (center) is the presidential candidate of the six opposition coalition © Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images

Much more is at stake for Erdogan in Sunday’s vote. But opposition officials and analysts have faith in Turkish institutions, especially the military, and hope they will eventually push back any attempts to seize power.

“In Turkey, there is an ingrained understanding that legitimate power comes through elections, which is the foundation of democracy. There is a big difference between refusing to vote,” said Menderes Chinar, professor of political science at Baskent University in Ankara.

Erdogan said in a television interview late Friday that he respects the election results. “We came to power democratically in Turkey. Just as we came to power with the support of the people, if the people decide differently, we will do whatever the democracy demands.” said he. “He who does not respect the results of the ballot box does not respect the people.”

His supporters, including those who took to the streets to defend him during the 2016 coup attempt, say he can secure a just victory. “There is no denying that there are economic problems, but the defense industry, the energy sector and transport are the priorities,” said Yusuf Kemal Bayrak. “I am inclined to vote for Erdogan because of these projects.”

The 20-year-old engineering student was among hundreds of thousands of vibrant AKP supporters waiting in long lines to watch the president’s impassioned speech at a sprawling defunct airfield outside Istanbul. rice field.

Erdogan used the rally to again undermine his legacy of infrastructure projects and make a series of baseless allegations against the opposition.

“Brothers and sisters, we will not allow our country to be divided. We will not allow the Kurtidaloolus, who roam with these terrorist organizations, to divide this country,” Erdogan said.

Tynar said exploiting deep rifts in society, especially between piouss and secularists, has kept Erdogan popular.

“The concern among his supporters is that Erdogan’s paternalism has contributed to his consolidation of power, which in turn will benefit them,” he said. “This time, that fear may not be great enough to tie them to Erdogan.”

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