Economy woes threaten to haunt Erdogan’s AKP in Turkey elections

Ankara, Turkey, Mar 14 – Turkey’s stalling economy threatens to haunt President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP in local elections this month as voters stung by living costs turn against a party that built its ballot box success on the country’s prosperity.

With inflation in double digits, the Turkish currency weaker and the economy in recession, analysts say Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) faces a major challenge to convince voters to stick with them in the March 31 ballot.

After Erdogan came to power in 2003 as premier, he was credited with helping steer the country to an economic boom that followed the 2001 financial crisis and made Turkey the new darling of emerging market investors.

That outlook has changed: Turkish GDP per capita fell to $9,632 in 2018 from $10,597 in 2017 and the economy is now in recession — its first since 2009.

“The AKP is reaching the limits of its economic model. Living standards are not growing,” said Berk Esen, assistant professor of international relations at Ankara’s Bilkent University.

Middle-class voters who once benefitted during AKP rule “could turn” against the party by not turning out to vote as recession hits consumers’ wallets, Esen said.

With the polls showing the economy is Turkish voters’ number one concern, Erdogan has sought to curb inflation, even pushing local authorities to set up stands selling vegetables at below market prices.

Erdogan has repeatedly lambasted opposition claims people lining up at the stalls were in “poverty queues”, insisting they were “queues of wealth” and the AKP was key to economic success.

“We will not allow any accidents to happen on March 31 on the path to ensure stability continues, and the economy strengthens,” Erdogan told supporters last month.

– ‘AKP the answer’ –

But opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy chairman Seyit Torun said it was “beyond any doubt” economic issues would affect the vote.

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