‘We can’t afford anything’: Turkey’s cost of living crisis threatens Erdogan’s re-election

ISTANBUL: Istanbul barber Hakim Ekinci, a longtime supporter of Tayip Erdoganwill not vote for president next Sunday, blaming his economic policies for eroding Turkish purchasing power and leaving many unable to afford even basic groceries.
Erdogan and his Islamist roots AK party were able to retain their electoral base, which was made up mostly of low-income, conservative people Muslim Turksthanks to strong economic growth during the first 10 years of his reign.
But a cost-of-living crisis sparked by Erdogan’s unorthodox economic agenda over the past year and a half has eroded his popularity, posing the biggest electoral challenge to his 20-year sway in power.
Some polls show Erdogan trailing his main challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu ahead of Sunday’s first round of voting – although the gap has recently narrowed. The parliamentary race remains on the razor’s edge, with the opposition likely to clinch a narrow majority.
“Before, we could buy three to four bags of groceries for 150 to 200 lira ($7.7 to $10). My wife and I could barely carry them. Now we can barely fill two bags,” said said Ekinci, 63, stopping to cut a customer’s hair at his salon in Istanbul’s Besiktas district.
“I would say those responsible are those who govern us. I think it’s the wrong decisions they made. I was a supporter of the AKP but I don’t think I vote for them.”
Ekinci’s views are representative of millions of Turks, who have had to contend with runaway inflation for years. Food prices jumped 54% year-on-year in April, with headline inflation dropping to 43.7% after peaking at 85.5% in October, the highest under Erdogan’s rule.
Annual inflation has remained in double digits for almost all five years since the 2018 general election. It began to rise after a currency crisis at the end of 2021, triggered by a series of interest rate cuts, in accordance to Erdogan’s unorthodox views.
Ekinci said he started questioning his support for the president and the AKP for economic reasons soon after the 2018 elections and made the final decision not to vote for them after the 2021 currency crisis.
The Turkish lira lost 44% in 2021 and 30% in 2022. It lost 76% under Erdogan’s second presidential term, marked by several currency crises due to unorthodox policies, geopolitical developments such as the war in Ukraine and disputes between Ankara and Washington.
“The exchange rate is out of control. We can’t afford anything. Nothing they said held, so they don’t inspire any confidence,” Ekinci said.
The barber is working on his own after having to lay off his two employees and said he could not get any bank loans despite rate cuts as authorities limit consumer loans to anchor inflation. Its foreign currency loans also multiplied in lira as the currency fell.
But many AKP voters still believe only Erdogan can fix the economy or blame other factors for its current state. Halime Duman, an Istanbul resident, said people who raise prices to make bigger profits were responsible for the skyrocketing cost of living. “(Erdogan) can solve it with a flick of the wrist,” she said, pausing from her shopping at a farmers’ market in central Istanbul. The opposition, including the Kilicdaroglu Opposition Alliance, only speaks in his opinion.
“They don’t act,” she said.
Birol Baskan, an author and non-party political analyst, said even Erdogan’s “hardcore” supporters don’t deny that the economy isn’t doing as well as it did at the start of his rule.
“The reason this party kept winning was because it gave voters some material benefits. This is the first time the magic has seemed to fail because of the economy, because of high inflation (and ) from the increase in the cost of living.”
“It’s hurt people’s pockets badly and that’s why I guess winning this election isn’t so assured anymore.”
Some voters are also not convinced that the opposition would immediately alleviate economic concerns. Talat Gul, marble worker, never voted for the AKP or its allies. He currently sees “only hunger” around him, but doubts things will change for the better soon if the opposition wins.
“They have created in the last 21 years a Turkey that cannot be changed. It will take 20 years to recover, whoever comes to power. But I just want (Erdogan) to leave,” he said. said while walking through the farmers market.
Ekinci, the barber, has yet to decide who to vote for among the three candidates running against Erdogan. “(Kilicdaroglu) may be an honest person…but they haven’t announced anything to convince me,” he said.
“I want the dollar exchange rate to go down (after the election). I want the price of gasoline to go down. I want inflation to go down,” Ekinci said.
“I want to go back to my life of five or six years ago. I want to be able to have a picnic, to travel abroad.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GreenLeaf Tw2sl