Recep Tayyip Erdogan He has been accumulating power in his hands for two decades. since he was chosen President of Turkey in 2016 after occupying the post of prime minister for 11 years, he has been adopting an increasingly authoritarian way of governing. Nevertheless, presidential and parliamentary elections that will be held this year are presented to him as a real headache: the opposition has consolidated in a block of six parties (the Table of Six) where some of his former allies participate.
With a severe cost of living crisis Plaguing his citizens and with his popularity ratings in free fall, polls suggest that Erdogan could lose the election. That’s why he hasn’t waited to make a move. This month he announced that he was bringing forward the elections -which were going to be on June 18- to May 14which gives him an advantage over those who are trying to unseat him, who have not yet chosen a candidate.
That is not the main challenge facing the opposition. And it is that Erdogan has activated the legal machinery to put his main rivals on the ropes. This is the case of the mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, who in December was sentenced to several years in prison and was politically disqualified. He waits for the appeals court to confirm or not the conviction to run for president.
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Other of the movements that Erdogan has promoted are aimed at softening the blow of hyperinflation. For more than a year, he and his party, the AKP, have followed an unorthodox economic policy based on the drop in interest rates and the devaluation of the currency. This manoeuvre, which goes against the prevailing economic theory, has resulted in an increase in inflation, which has reached more than 80%and unemployment.
To insulate voters from these problems, at least until May, his government has spent vast amounts of public money in a matter of weeks, despite economists around the world warning that that will only make the situation worse. At the end of last year, for example, it increased the national minimum wage by 55%, increased salaries for civil servants, expanded the aid program for small businesses and removed the minimum retirement ageallowing more than two million people to retire immediately and collect their pensions.
The Turkish president has also taken advantage of his position on the international stage to reinforce his figure. “I am entering the elections to face the effects of the recent crises in the world and in the country. I am here as a politician who solves the problems of the region and the world,” he said just a few weeks ago.
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Turkey has the second largest army in NATO and plays a crucial role in a highly unstable area, with Syria in the south and the Black Sea that bathes the coasts of Russia and Ukraine in the north. Precisely for this last reason, Erdogan has established himself as a mediator for the unblocking of grain exports.
Taking advantage of his recent international prominence, Erdogan has chosen to build muscle abroad to project more power at home. A clear example of this is the veto imposed on the entry of Finland and Sweden into the Atlantic Alliance. A position that he has ratified this week after opposing the entry of Sweden after the burning of a copy of the Koran in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.