Turkey’s economic woes lift opposition hopes

People listen to Mehmet Ozhaseki, the candidate of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, AKP, and opposition Nationalist Movement Party, MHP, for Ankara Metropole, during a rally by MHP in Kecioren district, in Ankara, Turkey, on March 10, 2019. The countrywide local elections scheduled for March 31, 2019 with 57 million registered voters. (AP)
Updated 20 March 2019

Turkey’s economic woes lift opposition hopes

  • A recent poll by the opposition CHP in 29 provinces found that about 60 percent of voters are frustrated over the country’s economic decline
  • Voter frustration may translate into the loss of some big cities, including the capital Ankara and Istanbul

ANKARA: As Turkey’s March 31 local elections draw closer, economic issues are becoming a major priority for the country’s voters. 

While the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has based its electoral success on the country’s prosperity for almost two decades, declining living standards and an economic downturn may signal a shift to rival parties in the election. 

Turkey was once an attractive option for investors trying to reach out to emerging markets, but the country’s economic outlook has changed significantly in recent years with double-digit inflation and a currency growing weaker by the day. 

Analysts say the economic concerns of middle-class voters, whose purchasing power has been primarily hit, will determine the electoral outcome if they turn against the AKP. 

In the previous local elections, the AKP won 43 percent of the vote, while its nearest rival, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), polled below 25 percent. 

Growing tensions between Turkey and the US are expected to further erode the value of the Turkish lira in the coming months. 

To reduce the impact of economic hardships on impoverished voters, Turkey’s government recently opened market stalls selling cheap produce. Long queues are a common sight at the stalls. 

Voter frustration may translate into the loss of some big cities, including the capital Ankara and Istanbul, where the AKP has ruled for decades.  Istanbul has added significance for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who began his political carrier as mayor of the city. Former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is running for election in the city against his secular rival Ekrem Imamoglu. 

A recent poll by the opposition CHP in 29 provinces found that about 60 percent of voters are frustrated over the country’s economic decline. 

Burhanettin Bulut, a CHP parliamentarian, said Turkish voters’ top priority will be “their empty cooking pot in the kitchen.” 

“Parents cannot give pocket money to their children when sending them to the school. From early morning until night, their main concern is how to feed themselves. Nobody is happy about this trend,” he told Arab News. 

Berk Esen, an international relations professor at Ankara’s Bilkent University, believes the poor economic outlook will make the election results in some cities, such as Ankara and the northwestern industrial hub Bursa, much tighter than in previous polls. 

“Although AKP voters will not split with their parties in a single stroke, some may opt not to vote to show their frustration. Voter turnout will be important in these elections when even 1 percent of votes can determine a candidate’s success,” he said. 

Some analysts said the alliance between the AKP and the nationalistic MHP party could offset the votes lost due to the economic outlook. 

But Esen said that in some cities where MHP candidates were not nominated, nationalistic constituencies may choose not to vote or to vote for opposition parties. 

The use of “religion” card by the government following the New Zealand terror attack is also seen as a strategy to divert attention from its economic failures. 

According to this view, voters in Turkey will not change loyalties because of ideological commitment. 

“If we focus on 30 metropolitan provinces where the majority of voters live, the number of battlefront elections is about 12,” Dr. Emre Erdogan, founder and director of the independent Infakto Research Workshop in Istanbul, told Arab News. 

“The CHP is guaranteed two provinces in the west, including Izmir, and the pro-Kurdish HDP can already list three provinces in the southeast. It seems that the AKP will gain 13 provinces hosting 10 million voters. The remaining provinces where 25 million voters live are accepted as competitive,” he said. 

Erdogan said that declining economic conditions might lead to eight of these provinces, including the southern provinces of Antalya and Mersin, as well as the northwestern province of Balikesir, voting for opposition parties. 

“In Ankara and Istanbul, the two biggest cities, the victory of the opposition will depend on third parties — Kurdish and nationalists votes,” he said. 

The HDP, with electoral support of about 10 percent, did not nominate candidates for Istanbul and Ankara, and is supporting opposition candidates.

Egypt holds full-honors military funeral for Hosni Mubarak

Updated 26 February 2020

Egypt holds full-honors military funeral for Hosni Mubarak

  • The Republican Guard carried Mubarak’s casket wrapped in the Egyptian flag
  • To the outside world, Mubarak the strongman symbolized so much of Egypt’s modern history

CAIRO: Egypt was holding a full-honors military funeral Wednesday for the country’s former autocratic President Hosni Mubarak, who was for decades the face of stability in the Middle East but who was ousted from power in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that swept much of the region.
A few dozen Mubarak supporters, clad in black and carrying posters of the former president, had gathered since morning hours at a mosque complex in an eastern New Cairo neighborhood, where Mubarak’s body was brought for the funeral service.
The Republican Guard carried Mubarak’s casket wrapped in the Egyptian flag.
The 91-year-old Mubarak died on Tuesday at a Cairo military hospital from heart and kidney complications, according to medical documents obtained by The Associated Press. He was admitted to hospital on Jan. 21 with intestinal obstruction and underwent surgery, after which he was treated in intensive care.
To the outside world, Mubarak the strongman symbolized so much of Egypt’s modern history but his rule of nearly 30 years ended after hundreds of thousands of young Egyptians rallied for 18 days of unprecedented street protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and elsewhere in 2011, forcing him to step down.

Perhaps ironically, Mubarak’s funeral service was held at the Tantawi Mosque in eastern Cairo, named for now retired Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who headed the military council that ran Egypt following Mubarak’s ouster and until the election of Islamist President Muhammed Morsi in 2012.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi attended the service, which was to be followed later in the day by burial at the cemetery in Heliopolis, an upscale Cairo district that was Mubarak’s home for most of his rule and where he lived until his death.
On Tuesday, El-Sisi extended condolences to the former president’s family, including his widow Suzanne and two sons, wealthy businessman Alaa and Mubarak’s one-time heir apparent Gamal.
In a statement, El-Sisi praised Mubarak’s service during the 1973 war with Israel but made no mention of his rule as president of the most populous Arab state. Three days of national mourning were to begin Wednesday, El-Sisi announced.
Pro-government media paid tribute to Mubarak, focusing on his role in the 1973 war with Israel when Mubarak, a pilot by training, commanded Egypt’s air force.
“Through his military and political career, Mubarak made undeniable achievements and sacrifices,” the state-run Al-Aharm newspaper eulogized Mubarak in its editorial Wednesday.
Born in May 1928, Mubarak was vice president on Oct. 6, 1981, when his mentor, President Anwar Sadat, was assassinated by Islamic extremists while reviewing a military parade. Seated next to Sadat, Mubarak escaped with a minor hand injury as gunmen sprayed the reviewing stand with bullets. Eight days later, the brawny former air force commander was sworn in as president, promising continuity and order.
Mubarak’s rule was marked by a close alliance with the US in the fight against Islamic militancy and assisting regional peace efforts. Many older Egyptians, who had long considered him invincible, were stunned by the images of Mubarak on a gurney bed being taken to court for sessions of his trial in Cairo following his ouster.
Mubarak’s overthrow plunged Egypt into years of chaos and uncertainty, and set up a power struggle between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood group that he had long outlawed. Some two and a half years after Mubarak’s ouster, El-Sisi led the military overthrow of Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mursi, and rolled back freedoms gained in the 2011 uprising.
In June 2012, Mubarak and his security chief were sentenced to life in prison for failing to prevent the killing of some 900 protesters during the 18-day uprising. Both appealed the verdict and a higher court later cleared them in 2014.
The following year, Mubarak and his sons were sentenced to three years in prison on corruption charges during a retrial. The sons were released in 2015 for time served, while Mubarak walked free in 2017.