Erdogan’s popularity drops to lowest level

Approval for Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dropped. (AFP)
Short Url
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.


‘Social explosion’ in Lebanese camps imminent, warn officials

Updated 21 February 2020

‘Social explosion’ in Lebanese camps imminent, warn officials

  • Situation volatile as Palestinian refugees face economic crisis after US peace plan

BEIRUT: Authorities are battling to prevent “a social explosion” among Palestinian refugees crammed into camps in Lebanon, a top official has revealed.

Fathi Abu Al-Ardat, secretary of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) factions in Lebanon, told Arab News that urgent measures were being put in place to try and stop the “crisis” situation getting out of control.

“Conditions in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are very difficult due to the economic crisis facing the country, and we are trying to delay a social explosion in the camps and working on stopgap solutions,” he said.

And Dr. Hassan Mneimneh, the head of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC), said: “More Palestinian refugees from the camps in Lebanon are immigrating. Embassies are receiving immigration requests, and Canada is inundated with a wave of immigration because its embassy has opened doors to applications.”

According to a population census conducted in 2017 by the Central Administration of Statistics in Lebanon, in coordination with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), there are 174,422 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon spread across 12 camps and nearby compounds.

Mneimneh insisted the figure was accurate despite the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) estimating there to be 459,292 refugees in the country. He said: “The census we had conducted refers to the current reality in Lebanon.”

He added that he feared “increased pressure on European donor countries over UNRWA in the coming days after the unilateral implementation of the ‘Deal of the Century’ (the US peace plan for the Middle East) by Israel.

“Israel’s goal is to undermine UNRWA’s mission as a prelude to ending the Palestinian cause and, thus, preventing the return of Palestinians.”

Mneimneh held a meeting on Wednesday with two Lebanese and Palestinian action groups in Lebanon to discuss Palestinian asylum issues in light of the American peace plan. There were no representatives of Hezbollah or Hamas present at the talks.

He said: “This deal kick-starts an unusual stage that carries the most serious risks not only to the Palestinian people and cause, but also to the other countries and entities in the Arab region.

“The first of these is Lebanon, which senses the danger of this announcement in view of the clauses it contains to eliminate the Palestinian cause, including the refugee issue and the possibility of their settlement in the host countries.”

Al-Ardat said: “Palestinian refugees have no choice but to withstand the pressures on them to implement the so-called ‘Deal of the Century.’ What is proposed is that we sell our country for promises, delusions, and $50 billion distributed to three countries. Palestine is not for sale.”

He pointed out that “the camps in Lebanon resorted to family solidarity in coordination with the shops in the camps. Whoever does not have money can go to the shop after two (2 p.m.) in the afternoon and get vegetables for free.

“We have been securing 7,000 packs of bread to distribute in the camps and buying the same amount to sell the pack at 500 liras. But this does not solve the problem.”

He added: “The PLO leadership continues to perform its duty toward the refugees and, until now, we have not been affected by the restrictions imposed by banks in Lebanon, and refugees are still receiving medical treatment.

“However, our concern now is that Palestinian refugees do not starve, taking into account all the indications that the situation in Lebanon will not improve soon.

“Twenty percent of the Palestinians in Lebanon receive wages either from UNRWA — as they work there — or from the PLO because they are affiliated with the factions, but 80 percent are unemployed and have no income.”

The meeting hosted by Mneimneh agreed “the categorical rejection of the ‘Deal of the Century’ because it means further erasing the identity existence of the Palestinian people as well as their national rights, especially their right to return and establish their independent state.

“It also means assassinating the Palestinian peoples’ legitimate rights and supporting Israel’s usurpation of international justice and 72 years of Arab struggle.

“The deal includes ambiguous, illegal and immoral approaches that contradict all relevant UN and Security Council resolutions, especially with regard to the establishment of the Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and the inalienable right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland and establish their state with Jerusalem as its capital,” a statement on the meeting added.

“UNRWA must remain the living international witness to the ongoing suffering and tragedy of the Palestinian people, and UNRWA must continue to receive support.”

Attendees at the talks also recommended “improving the conditions of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to strengthen the elements of their steadfastness until they return.” This was “based on the Unified Lebanese Vision for the Palestinian Refugees Affairs in Lebanon document, which includes the right to work.”