Apr 06 2019

Erdoğan needs to become once again face of positive change in Turkey - analyst

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan needs to once again become the face of positive change in Turkey to inspire voters the way he used to, said analyst Soner Çağaptay in the Washington Post on Friday.

According to many experts, Erdoğan suffered a major blow in local elections on Sunday, as his Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost mayoral race in five of the six most populous provinces in the country, including Istanbul and the capital Ankara.

Yet Erdoğan, who has been ruling Turkey since 2003, has not lost support among Turks, as the AKP emerged as the most popular from March 31 elections with nearly 45 percent of the vote. 

According to Çağaptay, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Erdoğan, who once represented change, has lost his magic touch as he now stands for the status quo.

Turkey’s opposition managed to win the races in key cities on Sunday despite having almost no voice in the country’s media, nearly 90 percent of which is under the grip of Erdoğan, and the Turkish president’s election campaign that portrayed local polls as a struggle for the country’s survival. 

“Only a few years ago, I believed that Erdogan’s extraordinary popularity was such that he could have gotten a corpse elected,” Çağaptay said, adding that the defeat of Binali Yıldırım, Erdoğan’s right-hand man and former prime minister, in Istanbul proved that he did not have such a power anymore. 

According to Çağaptay, Erdoğan is losing popularity among young voters who hold him responsible for the country’s problems, including renewed conflict with the Kurds and a collapsing economy.

“This is not to say Erdoğan has lost all support among Turks”, said the analyst, adding that Erdoğan until recently had delivered phenomenal economic growth, lifting desperate people, especially his conservative supporters, out of poverty. 

“Erdogan’s dilemma is that he has reached an inflection point in his career where many of the country’s voters, a majority in urban centres, are turning away from him,” said Çağaptay. “If he wants to make a comeback, Erdogan needs to once again become the face of positive change in Turkey.”

Çağaptay said he believed, as a pragmatic leader, Erdoğan would use this opportunity to normalise the country’s political system, by starting first with a concession speech congratulating elected opposition mayors and afterwards by ending the repression of the opposition.