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.


Pandemic lockdowns fueling rise of sexual extortion crimes in Lebanon

Updated 10 min 34 sec ago

Pandemic lockdowns fueling rise of sexual extortion crimes in Lebanon

  • Most perpetrators have prior history, says security official

BEIRUT: Coronavirus lockdowns are fueling an increase in sexual extortion crimes in Lebanon, according to a security official.

Figures from the Lebanese Internal Security Forces showed that such crimes had risen significantly in recent months. Authorities received 47 complaints during July and 96 in August. The number of people arrested for these crimes this year has reached 133.

The security official, from the Public Relations Division at the General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces, said the victims of this type of extortion were aged between 11 and 60, and the percentage of female victims was greater than the percentage of male ones.

“Such incidents are repeated daily, and the perpetrators may be Lebanese or non-Lebanese,” the official told Arab News. “These crimes increased during the presence of people in (their) homes as a result of quarantine due to the outbreak of coronavirus and people, old and young, resorted to social media.”

Despite information warning people against taking inappropriate photos and videos and under any pressure exerted on them, the official said, sexual extortion crimes were repeated because fraud took many forms.

“Perpetrators show their victims a measure of love and care that makes the victims believe them and feel secure with them,” the official explained. “It does not usually take long to convince male victims, while female victims usually look for someone who gives them great emotion to trust him, which takes longer. Usually, the female victims may be girls who suffer from difficult social conditions, and the start of the process of their extortion may take longer than with the male victims.”

Most of the perpetrators in sexual extortion operations had a prior history of such activity and were involved in fraud because it was lucrative, the official added.

The latest crime recorded by the Office of Combating Information Crimes and Protection of Intellectual Property in the Judicial Police Unit revealed that a Lebanese national was threatened with the publication of intimate photographs by someone she had met through Facebook.

A romantic relationship began between the two and she had sent him private photos and videos. He started threatening to upload these unless she sent him money, cell phone recharge cards, and new intimate images and videos of her. He also contacted and threatened one of her relatives, who capitulated and sent him more than 20 recharge cards and sums of money.

Brigadier Fadl Daher, a specialist in criminology and punishment and professor of criminal social studies, said there were three basic reasons for people committing this type of crime. 

“The financial motive is the basis for crimes against money. These crimes resort, in most cases, to defamation, and they become more common when the surveillance and prosecution are reduced, and the perpetrator believes that he would not be held accountable,” he explained. “In the time of coronavirus, the family returned home but ... every person in the house resorted to social media so no one knows what the other is doing within the same house.”

Daher said that poverty and need made people resort to all available means to obtain financial returns, and that extortion through social media may be one of those methods as the difficulty of arresting people who used social media to commit their crimes was four times higher than arresting those who committed their crimes in the street.

“The danger of these crimes is that they may target children and minors,” he added. “The lack of a social safety net through leniency in uncovering these crimes or talking about them led us in the past not to raise any talk about taboos to address them, and launching any campaign to break the silence now by asking victims to call the hotline is not helpful. An integrated mechanism of psychological, judicial and social treatment is required.”