Erdoğan forges reforms as polls show shrinking popularity - columnist

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan unveiled null political and economic reforms as polls show his re-election could be in danger, analyst Jonathan Gorvett wrote for the Asia Times on Wednesday.

On March 2, Erdoğan announced a Human Rights Action Plan, which involves a total of 11 main principles, 9 aims, 50 goals and 393 activities to be implemented over a two-year period, promising a number of legal reforms pledged to strengthen the rule of law and change election laws.  

Later on Friday, the Turkish president announced an economic measures package, pledging to boost economic growth on a sustainable basis, create jobs, increase exports, and reduce the country’s reliance on imports.

The new packages have been greeted with scepticism and raised doubts amongst analysts, Gorvett said and this led some “to suggest that the recent announcements may be driven by quite different goals than those stated.”

According to Gorvett, recent opinion polls in Turkey shows that Erdoğan and his governing Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) popularity are waning.

Gorvett addressed that Pollster Istanbul Economics showed a steady decline in support for AKP and its far-right ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in February.

“First-time voters, young voters, conservative Kurds, they won’t vote for the AKP anymore,” said Gorvett, citing Özgür Ünlühisarcıklı, the German Marshal Fund’s Ankara director. “Nowadays, he has no clear path to victory.”

“At this point, the human rights action plan may help the alliance, as there is a provision for lowering the electoral threshold, meaning larger parties can get more members of parliament. It’s a way for the ruling alliance to maintain itself in office,” he said.

The new U.S. administration under Joe Biden has raised further challenges for Erdoğan, according to Gorvett, on such issues like human rights and democracy, while Ankara already has disagreements with the European Union over its human rights abuses, aside from its eastern Mediterranean dispute with Greece.

“The action plan is thus to try and pre-empt this,” Gorvett said, citing Ünlühisarcıklı.