In Turkey, Erdogan’s AKP loses popularity amid coronavirus, economic woes

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP has lost a modest amount of support over the past few months, according to a Turkish research organization.

Independent research group MetroPoll Arastirma asks each month “If there were a parliamentary election this Sunday, which political party would you vote for?” The next general elections are scheduled for 2023, and voters will elect a new president as well as 600 members of the parliament for a term of five years.

While the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is still nearly six points ahead of the primary opposition party the Republican People’s Party (CHP) according to June’s poll, the AKP has lost support over the last few months.

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The CHP is a social-democratic party and it is the oldest political party in the country. The party is also considered the main opposition in the Grand National Assembly.

From January to March, Erdogan’s party held steady, with 33.7 percent saying they would vote AKP, but by June support had dropped to 30.3 percent. In May’s poll, the 30.7 percent of respondents said they would vote AKP if there was an election on Sunday.

Turkey's Pulse June 2020: If there were a parliamentary election this Sunday, which political party would you vote for? #MetropollTurkeysPulse

The poll did not mention how many voters contributed to the results.

Turkish economy

Turkey’s economy has deteriorated over the last two years, sliding into recession in March 2019, with inflation taking hold.

In mid-2019 unemployment was around 15 percent, and the economic downturn eroded the popularity of the AKP. Erdogan’s AKP won the March 2019 local mayoral elections nationally, but lost Turkey’s three largest cities, Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir.

In April, a Reuters poll expected Turkey’s economy to contract this year for the first time in over a decade as the coronavirus pandemic slashes output through mid-year.

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Before the coronavirus outbreak, the government expected the economy to expand 5 percent this year after rebounding from last year’s recession.

Turkey currently has the world’s 14th highest number of coronavirus infections.

“Ankara’s finances were weak before the pandemic—but the combination of external debt, a public health crisis, and a president who chooses to protect his reputation rather than his people could spell disaster,” a Foreign Policy article read.

Turkish involvement in Libya

Turkey has recently become heavily involved in the ongoing war in Libya as Ankara seeks to secure natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean and has sent troops and military aid in support of the internationally recognized Government of National Accord.

The GNA has been in conflict with the Libyan National Army (LNA) since April 2019, when the LNA launched an offensive to take the capital Tripoli.

Backed by Syrian mercenaries sent to Libya by Turkey, the GNA has taken ground against the LNA in recent months and now poses a threat to the strategic city of Sirte and the Al Jufra airbase.

Benghazi remains a stronghold of the LNA, which is backed by the Tobruk-based Libyan parliament and foreign countries including Egypt, Russia, France and the United Arab Emirates.

Also read: Libyans protest against Turkey’s Erdogan and ‘occupation’ of Libya in Benghazi

In a separate poll conducted by the research group, 42 percent of respondents negatively view taking an active role in the Libyan conflict.

Crackdown on opposition

Erdogan’s crackdown against his critics escalated in June when state media announced that arrest warrants had been issued for over 400 people, including soldiers, doctors, and teachers.

Erdogan accuses his critics of being affiliated with a religious movement led by Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish Muslim preacher who lives in the United States who was also blamed for the 2016 coup attempt.

Turkey’s “anti-terrorism legislation is vague and widely abused in trumped up cases against journalists,” according to Amnesty International.

Over 319 journalists have been arrested in Turkey since 2016, with 189 media outlets shut down, according to Turkey Purge, a website run by Turkish journalists that documents arrests in the country.

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