Erdogan rivals surge in polls ahead of 2023 Turkey election

Erdogan rivals surge in polls ahead of 2023 Turkey election
Ekrem Imamoglu greets his supporters after being elected Mayor of Istanbul. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 May 2021

Erdogan rivals surge in polls ahead of 2023 Turkey election

Erdogan rivals surge in polls ahead of 2023 Turkey election
  • ‘Loss of trust, pandemic failures’ damaging govt support, expert says
  • Recent meetings between leaders of the opposition have hinted at efforts to develop a joint candidate figure

ANKARA: Turkish opposition figures are gaining ground among voters ahead of the country’s critical 2023 presidential elections and are likely to pose a major threat to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling party, recent surveys show.

Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu and Ankara mayor Mansur Yavas, who head two opposition-controlled municipalities in Turkey’s largest cities, previously challenged Erdogan and his party in the March 2019 local elections.

And recent meetings between leaders of the opposition have hinted at efforts to develop a joint candidate figure who can appeal to wider segments of Turkish society.

The latest survey from Istanbul Economics, a leading research company, showed that Yavas and Imamoglu are now performing better than Erdogan in polls.

Results show that 52.5 percent of voters prefer Yavas against Erdogan’s 38.1 percent when asked who they would vote for if a presidential election was held today.

Similarly, 51.4 percent of voters would choose Imamoglu against Erdogan’s 39.9 percent  in a presidential election. They would also prefer Meral Aksener, chairwoman of the center right IYI Party, with 45.4 percent, against Erdogan’s 39.1 percent.

The survey, titled Turkey Report, was conducted across 12 cities using 1506 respondents. The polling company recently revealed that popular support for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its nationalist partner MHP was down to 45 percent, with the opposition standing at 55 percent.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also undermined trust in the government, due to perceived failures in handling the outbreak in Turkey.

Erdogan recently asked for “forgiveness” from Turks who have faced financial struggles due to pandemic restrictions and the subsequent economic downturn.

Dr. Berk Esen, a political scientist from Sabanci University in Istanbul, said that there are several reasons for the decline in Erdogan’s popularity in recent months.

“The pandemic has worsened the economic downturn that had already severely hit the urban poor, many of whom are loyal to the ruling party,” he told Arab News.

“Many voters feel that the Erdogan administration has done a poor job of dealing with the pandemic, both medically and economically,” Esen said.

“Although Turkey has been spared the catastrophe seen in other right-wing populist cases like Brazil and India, case numbers are still too high and vaccination efforts have not gone smoothly. Turkey has only managed to vaccinate 13 percent of its population and has experienced difficulty acquiring more vaccines from multiple sources,” he added.

The number of COVID-19 vaccinations administered in Turkey reached 25 million on Monday, however, over-reliance on China’s Sinovac jab and shipment delays thought to be politically motivated have put the country in a dangerous position amid surging infection rates.

The pandemic has also threatened the livelihoods of disadvantaged people in the country, with family suicides and bankruptcies of small business owners becoming more prevalent. Many people, including AKP voters, are beginning to feel left behind, Esen said.

“Government precautions against the pandemic are seen by many to be insufficient, scientifically not all that helpful, ill-planned and selectively applied. Such restrictions hurt local businesses and created unemployment across the country,” he added.

During the first quarter of 2021, about 29,000 shopkeepers closed their businesses, an increase of 11 percent compared with the same period in 2020.

Large pro-government rallies and other “super-spreader” events like mass protests have also sparked public outcry in the country. Many Turks have accused the government of double standards regarding pandemic measures, including social distancing rules.

Esen said that despite rising poverty and unemployment figures, the government has offered only limited social assistance to the poor, distributing less than most other OECD member countries.

“There is a growing sentiment among voters that the AKP treats its own members favorably thanks to cronyism, vast corruption schemes and shady business deals,” he added.

“Against this backdrop, opposition mayors of major metropolitan areas like Istanbul and Ankara have seen their popularity rise due to the increased reliance on social assistance by the urban poor and the provision of public services to low-income neighborhoods,” Esen said.

Another survey by Turkey’s Gezici research company found that 51 percent of respondents would vote for Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party, against 49 percent for Erdogan in Turkey’s presidential election runoff.


Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted

Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted
Updated 18 min 58 sec ago

Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted

Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted

Israeli military claims it has thwarted an attempt to smuggle weapons along the Jordanian border.


At NATO, Turkey hails its revival of dialogue with Greece

At NATO, Turkey hails its revival of dialogue with Greece
Updated 49 min 17 sec ago

At NATO, Turkey hails its revival of dialogue with Greece

At NATO, Turkey hails its revival of dialogue with Greece
  • Turkish President is holding a series of one-on-one meetings with NATO leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden
  • Erdogan recently toned down his anti-Western rhetoric as he seeks foreign investments for his country

BRUSSELS: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that a revival of dialogue with fellow NATO member Greece to resolve long-standing disputes will serve “stability and prosperity” in the region.
Speaking on the sidelines of a NATO summit, Erdogan also lamented what he said was a lack of support by Turkey’s NATO allies in its fight against terrorism.
It was a veiled reference to Turkey’s disappointment with US military support for Syrian Kurdish fighters, who Ankara argues are inextricably linked to a decades-long Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.
Erdogan, who is vying to mend Turkey’s battered relations with its Western partners, is holding a series of one-on-one meetings with NATO leaders, including US President Joe Biden.
The Turkish strongman has recently toned down his anti-Western rhetoric as he seeks foreign investments for his country, which has been troubled by a currency crisis and an economic downturn made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Turkey is on the frontline in the fight against terrorism in all relevant international platforms, especially NATO,” Erdogan said, adding that some 4,000 Daesh group fighters were “neutralized” in Turkish cross border operations.
“Turkey is the only NATO ally which has fought face-to-face and gave its young sons as martyrs for this cause,” Erdogan said. “Unfortunately, we did not receive the support and solidarity we expected from our allies and partners in our fight against all forms of terrorism.”
Last summer, a long-standing dispute between Turkey and Greece over boundaries and rights to natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean flared anew after Ankara sent research vessels into waters where Greece asserts jurisdiction.
Diplomats from the two countries have held two rounds of talks in recent months for the first time in five years, while the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey also held reciprocal visits.
“I believe that reviving the channels of dialogue between (Turkey) and our neighbor and ally, Greece, and the resolution of bilateral issues will ... serve the stability and prosperity of our region,” Erdogan said, in a video address to a think tank event on the sidelines of the summit.
Erdogan’s talks with Biden are expected to focus on US support for Syrian Kurdish fighters, as well as a dispute over Ankara’s acquisition of a Russian air defense system, which led to Turkey being removed from the F-35 fighter program and sanctions on defense industry officials.
Washington says the S-400 missiles, which Turkey purchased in 2019, pose a threat to NATO’s integrated air defense and has demanded that Ankara abandons the $2.5 billion system.
In April, Biden infuriated Ankara by declaring that the Ottoman-era mass killing and deportations of Armenians was “genocide.” Turkey denies that the deportations and massacres that began in 1915 and killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians amounted to genocide.
In Brussels, Erdogan met with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
After his meeting with Erdogan, Macron tweeted that he wants to “move forward” with Turkey.
It was their first meeting since a dispute between the two countries reached its peak in October, after Erdogan questioned Macron’s mental health.
Both men discussed Libya and Syria issues, the Elysee said. Macron has accused Turkey of flouting its commitments by ramping up its military presence in Libya and bringing in jihadi fighters from Syria.
During the discussion with Johnson, the two leaders agreed to “work toward the resumption of travel between the UK and Turkey,” according to a Downing Street statement. Turkey has been pushing for a relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions to allow British tourists to come to Turkey this summer.


Macron says Turkey’s Erdogan wants foreign mercenaries out of Libya

Macron says Turkey’s Erdogan wants foreign mercenaries out of Libya
Updated 14 June 2021

Macron says Turkey’s Erdogan wants foreign mercenaries out of Libya

Macron says Turkey’s Erdogan wants foreign mercenaries out of Libya
  • Macron was speaking after his first face-to-face with Erdogan in more than a year

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said he had received assurances from Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan that he wanted foreign mercenaries to leave Libyan territory as soon as possible.
“We agreed to work on this withdrawal (of foreign mercenaries). It doesn’t just depend on the two of us. But I can tell you President Erdogan confirmed during our meeting his wish that the foreign mercenaries, the foreign militias, operating on Libyan soil leave as soon as possible,” Macron told a news conference at the end of a summit of NATO leaders in Brussels.
Macron was speaking after his first face-to-face with Erdogan in more than a year as tensions between the two NATO allies worsened especially over the conflict in Libya.
Turkey deployed troops to Libya under an accord on military cooperation signed with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), helping it repel an assault by forces from eastern Libya. It also sent thousands of Syrian fighters to Libya.


UK Muslim charity steps up humanitarian work in Palestine

UK Muslim charity steps up humanitarian work in Palestine
Updated 14 June 2021

UK Muslim charity steps up humanitarian work in Palestine

UK Muslim charity steps up humanitarian work in Palestine
  • Penny Appeal’s goal is to ‘break the cycle of poverty at every stage,’ founder tells Arab News
  • CEO: ‘Once again we have had to pivot our efforts from long term sustainable projects to short term emergency response’

LONDON: A British Muslim charity has ramped up its humanitarian work in Palestine, crediting the generosity of communities of all faiths in supporting their emergency humanitarian response to last month’s fighting in Gaza.

Penny Appeal has worked in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank for close to 10 years, and maintains a range of humanitarian projects alongside partner organizations on the ground. 

Following May’s flare-up in violence — which claimed over 250 Palestinian lives, including 66 children — Penny Appeal said: “Once again the slow and painful process of rebuilding has begun.”

By providing cash support, distributed food packs, provisions for babies and women’s hygiene products, Penny Appeal has directly assisted over 77,000 people since last month’s fighting.

Its founder Adeem Younis told Arab News that the charity’s goal is to “break the cycle of poverty at every stage.”

From early-life interventions for mothers and children all the way to the end of life, Penny Appeal runs initiatives that aim to cut poverty and improve quality of life.

However, Younis said the latest round of Israeli attacks on Gaza meant that he and his team have had to focus on providing immediate humanitarian relief and support to victims and their families.

“Sadly, there has been an increase in the number of orphans we’re having to support,” he added, lamenting the cyclical nature of conflict in Gaza.

“We want to provide sustainable solutions that we can empower the community with, but our solutions are sometimes not effective because every year, every two years, it all gets destroyed again, or there’s an emergency situation that takes you back to square one,” he said.

In a statement issued to Arab News, the charity’s CEO Harris Iqbal said: “Sadly, once again we have had to pivot our efforts from long term sustainable projects to short term emergency response. We have been focusing in particular on medical treatment and supplies, working with a network of hospitals and medical organisations, as well as distributing food packs for families displaced by the bombing.”

But while Gazans continue to confront a familiar cycle of progress followed by setback, Younis said he and his team noticed that the external reaction was markedly different this time around.

“We’ve already raised over £500,000 ($705,850) for the most recent emergency. Donations have come from not just Muslims but from all faiths, from all backgrounds. Even today we still have people calling on a daily basis,” he added.

“What we’ve seen is that the compassion and support from the wider community, not just Muslims, has been very, very different.”

He said not only do those donations assist with emergency response on the ground in Gaza and the West Bank, but they also make Palestinians — who are largely cut off from the outside world — realize that they have the support of countless people worldwide.

“The recipients tell us all the time that they’re very grateful for the support they receive. They can’t believe the support they receive. They can’t believe that people are thinking about them as well. It means a lot for them to receive the aid, to have that help,” Younis added.

“That gives them a sense that the world is listening … When they receive outside aid, they don’t just feel the aid but they feel the support — it keeps their spirits high.”


Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'

Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'
Updated 14 June 2021

Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'

Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'

BRUSSELS: NATO leaders on Monday agreed to step up their collective defence "against all threats, from all directions," according to their final statement.
NATO said it would adapt to climate-reated security challenges, called on Russia to drop its designation of two allies - the United States and the Czech Republic - as "unfriendly countries" and committed funds to the Kabul airport.
It said it would respond to Russia's growing nuclear arsenal and called on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities.
In a first for the Western military alliance, it said China was posing "systemic challenges" for the 30-nation pact.