Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is rapidly losing the support of the population – polls indicate that the rating of the head of state has reached the lowest point during his entire reign. According to experts, Erdogan’s problems with the rating are caused by the economic crisis and the growth of corruption in the ruling party. At the same time, experts do not exclude that the Turkish leader will return the support of the population at the expense of foreign policy, including a possible operation in Syria.
A series of October studies by the Metropoll Center recorded a record decline in the ratings of both President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), which maintains a majority in parliament in tandem with the Nationalist Movement Party.
According to polls, the level of support for the head of state is 40.8%, while 51.1% of respondents have a negative attitude towards Erdogan. For the Turkish leader, this is actually the lowest figure in 19 years of his rule as Turkey. Moreover, 49.8% of Turks are confident that the current president will lose in the next elections, scheduled for 2023. Only 44.1% of those polled believe in his victory.
At the same time, there is an increase in the number of opposition supporters, who believe that the opponents of the ruling bloc will be able to solve the problems facing Turkey. Thus, 45.7% of Turks are confident in the forces of Erdogan’s opponents, and 45.1% doubt them. For comparison: in February 2021, only 42.5% of respondents believed in the opposition, and 48.6% were not sure of their ability to rule the state.
With the strengthening of the position of the opposition parties, the support of the ruling bloc also falls.
Thus, only 40.5% of the respondents believe that the Justice and Development Party together with the Party of the Nationalist Movement will be able to solve the economic problems of the state. 54.8% of the country’s citizens do not expect any success from the ruling bloc in this area.
Parliamentary elections in Turkey are due in 2023. According to the study, 53.7% of respondents do not believe in the victory of Erdogan’s party as a result of the vote. Only 37.8% of Turks adhere to the opposite point of view. That is, the majority expect the end of the 19-year rule of the AKP.
What brought down Erdogan’s rating
The fall in the government’s rating is observed against the backdrop of a serious economic crisis that has haunted the country since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. So, in October, the inflation rate in the country approached 20%, and the lira fell sharply against the dollar against the background of a decrease in the key interest rate of the Central Bank of Turkey to 16% – according to Turkish media, this decision was actively promoted directly by Erdogan.
Experts interviewed by Gazeta.Ru agree that it is economic problems that have become the key reason for the fall in the ratings of both the president and the ruling party.
According to Andrei Kazantsev, a professor at the Higher School of Economics and the chief researcher at MGIMO, the economic crisis was provoked by a pandemic and not very good economic management in recent years.
“In addition, the corruption factor in the ruling party is actively playing against Erdogan. In particular, the revelations by the leader of the Turkish mafia Sedat Peker, who fled Turkey and is seriously criticizing the president’s entourage. To this can also be added the fact that the President of Turkey, in principle, has never been received by residents of important parts of the country, in particular – Istanbul. Erdogan has great support in some regions of Turkey, but in large cities the situation is completely different, ”the expert added.
Amur Gadzhiev, a researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, partly agrees with this. At the same time, in his opinion, in addition to economic problems, the deterioration of relations with the West also contributes to the decline in Erdogan’s popularity.
“Pressure from the US and the EU, as well as the formation of an anti-Turkish format in the Eastern Mediterranean from Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel – all this does not add to the popularity rating of the ruling coalition, and accordingly to Erdogan,” the expert said.
What will the President of Turkey do
The precipitous drop in the level of support is an alarming sign for the Turkish authorities, especially given the fact that the country will host both parliamentary and presidential elections in less than two years. According to Cumhuriyet, key opposition parties in Turkey have already announced their unification ahead of the start of the election campaign. According to the publication’s estimates, their total level of support is already 1-2% higher than the indicators of the ruling bloc.
In such conditions, the issue of the return of popular support becomes quite relevant for the ruling party and the president. From the point of view of experts, Erdogan will most likely use foreign policy for this. So, Andrey Kazantsev from MGIMO is sure that the Turkish leader is already trying to catch up with the help of foreign policy moves.
“So, after his intervention in the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, he began to pay a lot of attention to the Central Asian region and Afghanistan. Some active actions of Erdogan are quite possible there, one must understand that this is due to the identity of Turkey, which since the time of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk considers itself a part of Central Asia.
The Turkish leader is strengthening contacts both with the Taliban and with Afghan opposition groups. In addition, Erdogan stepped up interaction with the Turkic states of Central Asia, ”the expert explained.
In addition, Erdogan stepped up efforts to launch the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, which provides for gas supplies to the EU from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, bypassing Russia and Iran. He also works in the Middle East, in particular in Libya, thereby realizing Ankara’s claims to oil and gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, Kazantsev said.
“The main thing is that the Turkish president never does anything in one direction. That is, Central Asia with Afghanistan, the SCO, the Trans-Caspian project and the Middle East with Syria – all these are complementary moments for him. He makes efforts in many directions at once and it doesn’t matter that they contradict each other. For the Turks, the main thing is that they have charged many directions, the people like such activity, ”the expert emphasized.
In October, Erdogan did not rule out the launch of a new Turkish military operation in Syria. According to Amur Hajiyev from the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, military actions in this country may become Erdogan’s response to the fall in his rating.
“Last year’s events in Nagorno-Karabakh did not produce the desired result, and now we see that Ankara continues to build up its military presence in Syrian Idlib, hoping that Damascus will change its policy towards the region and turn a blind eye to the presence of extremist elements in Syria.
In principle, one can expect that Turkey will carry out a new military operation in Syria, but negotiations between Erdogan and US President Joe Biden will be of great importance here.
Probably, the American leader is not very interested in another Turkish operation, given that the United States supports pro-Kurdish groups in Syria – including those that Turkey recognizes as terrorist, based on the fact that they cooperate with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is committing terrorist attacks. on Turkish territory, ”the expert said.
It should be noted that in addition to the directions of Erdogan’s foreign policy outlined by experts, the Turkish president has recently intensified his rhetoric in support of the national interests of the state, which somehow affects his electorate. For example, in October, the Turkish leader once again attacked the UN Security Council, announcing that the five permanent members of the Security Council – Russia, the United States, Great Britain, China, France – cannot decide the fate of the rest of the world.
From the point of view of Amur Hajiyev, the ruling bloc will most likely still manage to win in future elections, despite problems with support.
“There is a certain core of voters who, on the one hand, support the Justice and Development Party, and on the other, the Nationalist Movement Party. Probably, in the country as a whole, they will win and receive the necessary 40%. So far, one should not expect a significant loss of the electorate from the ruling bloc in percentage terms, ”the expert summed up.