Faith in Erdogan and his economic policies dwindles
Although many are voicing discontent with Erdogan and desiring change, they are not convinced to vote for the opposition.
Selman Deveci, a cook working at a café in Konya, Turkey, told the Financial Times he wants "change," in Turkey.
The desire is shared by other voters in a province that had been a bastion for current president Recep Tayyip Erdogan
"They've scr**** the economy," Deveci said of the lira's depreciation and widespread inflation, which had taken a severe toll on people's wallets. The degradation of fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey, as well as a governing structure that concentrates power in the hands of the president, have also moved him away from Erdogan, according to FT.
And yet Deveci has no faith in the opposition.
Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) are facing one of the most difficult campaigns of their two-decade reign. Nationwide surveys show him neck and neck with Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the 74-year-old Republican People's Party leader who will represent the unified opposition in the presidential election on May 14.
Yet, Deveci's views demonstrate why the election is so close, despite many Turks' disappointment with Erdogan's inflation issue, which has been exacerbated by resentment over his government's inadequate reaction to the deadly earthquake in February.
Erdogan, 69, has traditionally had the backing of religiously orthodox districts in Turkey's Anatolian heartland, such as Konya. In the most recent presidential election, three out of every four voters in the province supported him.
Berk Esen, a professor at Sabanci University, believes that this time the "massive economic crisis" has dwindled Erdogan's party's base. Nevertheless, this may not always convert into votes for the opposition, with Kilicdaroglu — a gently spoken political veteran from the minority Alevi sect — failing to persuade people that he is the one who can bring about long-term change.
“In places such as Konya, where you have a very conservative pious voter bloc, most AKP voters have decided not to desert the ship,” Esen stated. “In part, this is because the opposition has not created an appealing, credible alternative.”
One student stated that her family used to support the president but has since altered their minds. "I don't like Erdogan any anymore," she said. Even basic pleasures, like purchasing books, had become impossible due to rising prices, she remarked. She did not want to provide her name, like many others in Konya who talked to the Financial Times, out of fear of retaliation from the government.
The larger economic data reflects the perception of economic dread. Residents of Konya grew substantially more affluent during Erdoan's early years in power. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, economic production per person increased from $4,250 in 2004, the year after Erdogan was first elected prime minister, to $9,690 in 2013. However, since then, per capita GDP has fallen back to $7,340, following a nationwide trend.
Erdogan was viewed as a moderate, business-friendly Muslim who might steer Turkey in a new direction when he was elected 20 years ago. Yet, while his administration pushed through substantial changes, particularly in its early years, it slowly curtailed civil freedoms.
It ruthlessly suppressed demonstrations in 2013, and an attempted coup three years later provided Erdogan with a new impetus to carry through a referendum that established the presidential system, giving him broad powers.
Suleyman Gardas, a pensioner enjoying the sun in a square in Konya, was particularly grateful to Erdogan for making the lives of devout Muslims easier, pushing back against discrimination against observant Muslims in public institutions.
“Erdogan is the best,” he insisted. “Even if mistakes happen.”