The devastating earthquake in southern Turkey is a shaky date for May elections. A government representative spoke of “serious difficulties.” This is interpreted as the first indication that the presidential and parliamentary elections may be postponed.
Dissatisfaction with disaster relief in Turkey is growing. There are doubts whether the presidential and parliamentary elections in May can go ahead as planned. “It’s really too early to talk about the election,” said a government official. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had set the election date for January.
Bad polls for Erdogan
According to opinion polls published before the earthquake, Erdogan should be prepared for a tough election campaign. Its popularity has suffered, among other things, from the rising cost of living and the weakening of the national currency, the lira. Now he is being criticized for how his government reacted to the devastating earthquake.
According to observers, whether the president is re-elected depends strongly on how he deals with the disaster. “Effective emergency aid could strengthen the head of state and his party, the AKP, by generating a sense of national solidarity,” said Wolfango Piccoli of the international consultancy Teneo.
position as a strong leader
Erdogan is currently trying to position himself as a strong leader. He hugged a crying woman in Kahramanmaras province on Wednesday during his visit to the earthquake zone. He then continued to Hatay, where the death toll is even higher. There, the head of state even acknowledged “shortcomings” in crisis management, but stressed that “it is impossible to be prepared for a disaster like this”.
Anger against the government is on the rise, especially in southern Turkey. Many people feel abandoned by the authorities and blame them for not rescuing their loved ones from the rubble. “I saw the anger with my own eyes. I’m sure it will have an impact. Erdogan has weakened not only state institutions, but also Turkish civil society,” said Gönül Tol, program director for Turkey at the US think tank Middle East Institute, which was in the country at the time of the earthquake.
She referred to the failed coup in 2016, after which the government acted against many civil society organizations.
Regardless of the political consequences of the disaster, holding elections in the affected areas is a major logistical challenge. About 13 million people live in the region affected by the earthquake. Hundreds of thousands have become homeless.
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