Erdoğan’s biggest problem ahead of elections is economy, more than terrorism

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s biggest problem ahead of the key March 31 local elections is economic difficulties which occupied the first two ranks of a survey revealed on Jan 30 in Istanbul, hurting people more than terrorism after a number of years.

According to the annual “social-political tendencies research” of the Center for Turkish Studies (CTRS) of the Kadir Has University (KHAS) in Istanbul, 26.9 percent of people who answered the survey said that the biggest problem of 2018 was “unemployment”. In 2017 the answer to that question was “terrorism” by 29.0 percent which dropped to 13.8, the fourth rank in the popular agenda.

The unemployment answer in the questionnaire was followed by “cost of living” by 17.8 pct. The third in the rank is the struggle against the illegal network of the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, or FETÖ as it was indicted against masterminding the 2016 military coup attempt in Turkey; 16.2 pct. And the fifth on the list is another economy related problem: depreciation of Turkish lira against foreign currencies, especially the U.S. dollar.

It is not a surprise that the anti-American sentiment in Turkey hit 82 pct according to the same survey as three of the five biggest problems listed are somehow related with U.S. in people’s eyes, including the American collaboration with the Syria branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has been designated as terrorist also by the U.S. government.

The survey says that the slight drop in the confidence shown by the AK Parti voters to Erdoğan’s presidency from 89.9 to 80.7 was mainly due to the economic reasons.

The approval rate for government’s economy politics in 2017 was 47.7 which dropped to 33.5 in 2018 according to the survey; 57.1 percent said their economic stance got worse in 2018, but 21,9 percent said they were not negatively affected by the economic situation.

The overall satisfaction of the ruling AK Parti voters to the government performance, despite the presidential election of 2018 has dropped from 88.0 to 82.3 pct, mainly due to the same reason. The approval rate of Erdoğan in the same context was dropped from 56.4 percent from right after the June 24, 2018 elections to the end of the year to 38.9 pct, yet it did not affect much the loyalty of the AK Parti voters to President Erdoğan despite a slight loss from 92.4 to 84.5 pct.

Another interesting result of the survey was about Turkey being democratic or authoritarian. It is not a surprise that the social democratic opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said more authoritarian by 65.9 pct. as well as the Kurdish problem focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) by 76.0 pct. But 49.5 pct of AK Parti’s election ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) voters said thet Turkey became more authoritarian in 2018 from the 40.0 of 2017. More surprisingly, almost a third of the AK Parti voters (32.6 pct) said Turkey became more authoritarian last year; in 2017 that figure was 17,6. Also 30.7 pct of AK Parti voters think Turkey was not a “modern” country; in 2017 only 12 pct thought that way.

One of the worst profiles in the survey belongs to Turkish media. Those who think that there was media freedom in Turkey in 2018 was 37.7 pct (from 45.1 in 2017) where more than three quarters of media outlets are in the hands of pro-government investors. Only 37.5 pct of the people think there was freedom of expression in Turkey with a 10 pct drop from a year before. As a result credibility of media in the country is one of the lowest among democratic institutions.

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