Erdogan’s popularity drops to lowest level

Approval for Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dropped. (AFP)
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Updated 08 February 2020

Erdogan’s popularity drops to lowest level

  • Erdogan’s authoritarianism cited as reasons for his plunging ratings

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s popularity rating has fallen to its lowest level since October 2018, according to a new survey.

Pollster company Metropoll’s findings also showed that public approval for the Turkish leader had dropped by almost two points since December 2019, from 43.7 percent to 41.9 percent in January this year.

Experts believe the main underlying reasons for the wane in support for Erdogan were due to his authoritarianism and power grabbing which were damaging the country’s democratic institutions.

Berk Esen, an academic in international relations at Bilkent University in Ankara, also blamed a reduction in voter confidence on the declining state of the economy and other crises both at home and abroad.

Over the past two years the Turkish lira has weakened by 36 percent and investment in the country has plunged over concerns of state intervention in the economy and heightened geopolitical risks.

“Although the ruling party has in the past chosen politicizing crises to mobilize supporters against the opposition, it no longer seems to have the ability to effectively address them,” Esen told Arab News.

“Many voters feel that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) did not handle the recent earthquake in the eastern province of Elazig or the economic crisis well and worry that Turkish military involvement in Syria is getting out of hand with no tangible achievements.”

The latest deadly attack on Turkish troops in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province has also stirred widespread public debate about the necessity of Turkish presence in rebel-held battlegrounds of Syria.

Coupled with a growing sentiment of cronyism and corruption, these issues had drained the AKP’s support, said Esen. A recent corruption scandal involving Turkey’s Red Crescent had also further tarnished the government’s reputation.

The survey data revealed that Erdogan’s approval rating peaked at 48 percent in October, when he ordered the launch of an offensive into northeast Syria against Syrian Kurdish militia in the region. The nine-day-long operation ended with two separate agreements with Washington and the Kremlin.

Some 82.3 percent of pro-Kurdish party HDP voters, 87.4 percent of main opposition party CHP backers, and 83.3 percent of opposition Good Party voters were unhappy with Erdogan’s leadership, study figures revealed. However, during political crises, such as the 2016 failed coup attempt, Erdogan’s approval ratings were generally found to have surged.

A separate survey carried out by the Turkish CHP (Republican People’s Party), showed that 40 percent of Erdogan’s voters felt the country’s presidential system needed amending, while 54 percent of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) supporters, the AKP’s staunch ally, also demanded system change.

Themis Research’s latest survey results, released in early February, revealed that Ekrem Imamoglu, the newly elected opposition mayor of Istanbul and a challenger to Erdogan with his inclusive political rhetoric and charisma, topped the polls with a 49 percent approval rating among voters. He was followed by Ankara’s opposition mayor Mansur Yavas (47 percent) and then Erdogan (42 percent) in third place.

Turkey’s opposition mayors, who won the country’s largest cities in the latest elections, have an ever-increasing rate of popularity mainly due to the priority they attach to transparency and fighting corruption, and their condemnations of government wrongdoings in major infrastructure projects.

Esen said: “The effective management of CHP mayors in metropolitan municipalities gives hope to voters that there may be a political alternative to the ruling party.”

He added that Erdogan remained more popular than his party but had lost some support in the past year along with his popularity bounce after the recent Turkish operation in Syria.

“The opposition against him has hardened over the past year since the 2018 presidential election. Faced with the government onslaught, the opposition parties, that in the past failed to agree on anything besides their opposition to Erdogan, have begun to cooperate openly.

“This may have a huge impact on electoral dynamics in the next election cycle,” Esen said.

The next national election is not due until 2023, unless there is a snap election.

Turkish military visit raises fears of Syrian operation

Updated 43 min 50 sec ago

Turkish military visit raises fears of Syrian operation

  • The Chief of General Staff accompanied the high-profile visit
  • Turkey has conducted three cross-border operations in Syria against Daesh and the Kurdish YPG militia since 2016

ANKARA: A further visit by Turkey’s Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, and senior military officials to troops along the Syrian border, along with plans to hold meetings with commanders, have raised fears of a new Turkish military operation.
The Chief of General Staff, Gen. Yasar Guler, accompanied the high-profile visit, while President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also attended some meetings via telephone.
Turkey has conducted three cross-border operations in Syria against Daesh and the Kurdish YPG militia since 2016.
Navar Saban, a military analyst at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies in Istanbul, said an imminent operation is unlikely, due to the increasing cost of a military move.
“Logistically speaking, it doesn’t make sense to launch another operation in an area that has this many complexities, including a Russian presence, Daesh cells and Syrian regime operations. Even if they win, it will bear significant costs for troops on the ground because of security problems in northwestern Afrin and northwestern Idlib provinces,” he told Arab News.
However, Saban also said the visit is unlikely to be random.
“It is for coordination on the ground to manage clashes with different actors. But it wouldn’t trigger a new operation in the short term,” he said.
On Friday, US-backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces announced a new campaign to fight remnants of Daesh across the border with Iraq following a recent increase in attacks.
Last month, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) blamed Daesh for exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to “regroup and inflict violence on the population.”
“Intermittent clashes and ground-based strikes between pro-government forces and armed groups continue to be reported in western Aleppo and southern Idlib,” the OHCHR said.
The resumption of violence in Idlib has sparked concern in Ankara about a possible wave of immigration toward the Turkish border, where Turkey has deployed troops.
On Friday, one Turkish soldier was killed and two were wounded following an attack on an armored ambulance in Idlib. The region has seen an increase in attacks since December.
On May 27, a Turkish soldier was killed in an explosion on a highway in Idlib.
Kyle Orton, a UK-based Syria researcher, said that another Turkish operation into Syria remains unlikely for now, as previous cross-border operations already gave the country a military foothold.
“The American presence in Syria has always been the major roadblock to Turkey dismantling the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) statelet, and the Americans want a withdrawal from Syria, quite possibly before the election in November,” he told Arab News.
Orton said that Turkey can get what it wants by maintaining its position, as there are potential political advantages in fighting Daesh in the vacuum left by the US.
“If the Americans are still in Syria in, say, a year, then Ankara might reconsider its view,” he added.