With 21 days left to municipal elections, which President Erdogan and his nationalist partner Mr. Devlet Bahceli labeled “existential to the survival of a unified Turkey”, polls reveal that the voters are not buying this argument. Instead, the focus is almost certain to be Turkey’s deepening economic slump, impoverishing AKP’S traditional base of low and middle income class conservatives. Xinhua and PA Intelligence report latest poll results:
ANAR: Voters not intrigued by “existential” argument
The chairman of ANAR surveying agency Mr. Ibrahim Uslu, whose company is center-right with a decent forecasting record recently told independent news site T24.com.tr that voters are not buying “the existential nature of this elections” argument, with the economic distress providing a natural advance to opposition parties. He predicted that AKP may face a fate similar to 2009 municipal race, when it bled 9 percentage points vis-à-vis the previous general elections.
Xinhua: Tough going for Erdogan
Xinhua interviewed voters and reviewed survey results.
“When people have an empty belly, they grow disenchanted from the government. This is a general rule,” said Erhan Bozkurt, owner of a perfumery booth in downtown Ankara’s Kizilay, the Turkish capital’s commercial heartland.
“Prices went skyrocketing, and measures and efforts made by the government have had limited impact on the market. Consumers only buy the foremost essential goods, such as food, and forget about the rest,” he said to Xinhua, explaining that his sales dropped considerably.
“It’s a clear indication that economic problems are so huge that even local mayoral candidates — from both the opposition and the government — cannot turn a deaf ear to them,” said political analyst and journalist Serkan Demirtas to Xinhua.
“In the light of all these and with the fact that there are still a few weeks to go to polls, it’s pretty sure we will observe a more aggressive political campaign by both alliances,” he said.
Economic hardships have seemingly eroded some of the support for the AKP ahead of the elections, according to surveys.
Recently published polls put opposition candidate for mayor of Ankara Mansur Yavas 3 percentage points ahead of his AKP rival, Mehmet Ozhaseki, while in Istanbul, the country’s biggest city and economic hub, the opposition’s Ekrem Imamoglu has narrowed the lead of the AKP’s Binali Yildirim to 1.5 points.
These two major cities are controlled since nearly two decades by the AKP. And Erdogan himself was mayor of Istanbul in the 90s before he founded the AKP.
With a persistent inflation, the government this month launched the direct sale of cheap vegetables and other essential goods in temporary state-run markets in Istanbul, Ankara and some other cities to bring prices down. Yet state-regulated sales had a modest impact on inflation figures.
Unemployment also rose to 12.3 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, up from 10.3 percent a year earlier, especially hurting the massive young working force in the 82 million populated G20 nation.
Erdogan won elections last year to a newly powerful presidency and is still very popular but the municipalities are critical for the AKP’s hold on power, turning the local elections into a test of popularity for the government.
Erdogan has put his weight on the election campaign and is touring relentlessly the country addressing his supporters during daily rallies.
The AKP supporter base has been very loyal to its leader, and argued that Turkey’s economic ordeal will not change this fact.
“I love my leader. He is the leader of the century,” said Songul Demiralp, a homemaker aged 33, in a grocery store. She admitted that Turkey was currently witnessing hardships, but “Erdogan’s leadership will bring us to safe waters. I believe in him.”
PA Intelligence poll survey
We have reviewed all polls published during the week, which indicate large number of undecideds and very close races in many major cities. CHP-IYIP is safe in Izmir, while a vast majority of polls put AKP candidate and former Speaker of Parliament Mr. Binali Yildiz ahead of CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu in Istanbul. 5 out of 7 polls claim CHP is leading AKP in Ankara. In Eskisehir, CHP’s Buyuksener may once again defeat his rival. In Bursa, a conservative stronghold, majority of polls claim CHP-IYIP are ahead. The results are mixed in other two large cities, namely tourism center Antalya and industrial and agricultural capital of the Mediterranean Coast, Adana. With one exception, available polls show pro-Kurdish HDP sweeping 13 cities and townships, where Kurdish citizens are in a majority.