Will the earthquake topple Erdoğan, too?
Turkey’s parliamentary and presidential elections are due to be held in May — just three months after the earthquakes. The Turkish and international press concur that the disaster will play a key role in the election campaign, especially because many people blame President Erdoğan for the lack of adequate protective measures. Commentators are less unanimous about the consequences for Erdoğan’s bid for re-election.
Just deserts for corrupt building policy
Erdoğan shares responsibility for this disaster, Naftemporiki points out:
“He came to power 20 years ago, after another major earthquake in 1999 which killed 18,000 people. In those 20 years, his government has failed to prepare the country for another such an earthquake. After the devastating 1999 earthquake, an ‘anti-earthquake tax’ was introduced to make new public buildings in vulnerable areas earthquake-proof [among other measures]. ... Instead, the money has been directed elsewhere, as the opposition denounces. The people’s money has been wasted. Large construction companies with links to the state and the ruling party were contracted to construct these buildings but failed to comply with earthquake protection regulations.”
Pressure could lead to effective measures
The disaster poses a risk for Erdoğan, but that could also be a good thing, Magyar Narancs believes:
“The issue of responsibility will become an important component of the presidential election campaign, and not without reason: the illiberal and authoritarian Erdoğan regime, including its expert apparatus, has done little to mitigate the consequences of earthquakes. .... This could motivate the Turkish authorities to act quickly now. They cannot afford to abandon one of the largest peripheral regions of the country and its population, which is largely of Kurdish origin and therefore considered prone to rebellion.”
Turning point in Turkish politics unlikely
Erdoğan still has every chance of surviving this crisis too, says Deník N:
“The country is plagued by inflation of over fifty percent, and wages are not keeping up with the price increases. In reaction to the economic crisis, Erdoğan announced a massive aid package that could help him win back some voters. In response to the earthquake, he has promised another financial aid package. ... If Erdoğan manages to drown out criticism with grand gestures and continued aid, he will be able to maintain his reputation as a capable leader ahead of the election. So far, there is nothing to suggest that the current situation will break his most loyal core of voters.”
Postpone the election campaign for now
The opposition is accusing the government of failure because the aid has reached the disaster area too late and is inadequate. Political unity must be the top priority now, warns the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak:
“Before the earthquake there was an increasingly heated election campaign in Turkey. That is normal. But now we are in a special situation and everyone must show our country and the world that we stand united. The political debates can come later. Making the disaster a part of this showdown, and in particular seeing it as an opportunity, will only hurt our country and our nation. Our people will not like this situation being exploited in this way.”