Lights go out on Erdogan rival Kilicdaroglu who refused to pay soaring power bills

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The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party said on Thursday that power had been cut at his home, after he refused to pay his bills for two months in protest at steep hikes in subsidized energy prices.

A currency crisis late last year sent inflation soaring and prompted the government to raise prices of everything from gas and electricity to road tolls, alcohol, bus fares and petrol in January.

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“Energy is a basic human right. I wanted to be the voice of those who cannot pay,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu said in a video posted on Twitter.

Annual inflation rose further to 61 percent in March. Many analysts blame the economic turmoil on a series of unorthodox interest rate cuts engineered by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year.

Kilicdaroglu said in February he would stop paying his electricity bills and called for the price hikes to be rolled back.

He said on Thursday that his wife notified him that power had been cut in their Ankara home, and that electricity prices -- which went up between 50 percent and 125 percent at the beginning of 2022 -- had risen more than 400 percent in three years.

Nearly 3.5 million Turkish subscribers had their power cut in 2021, Kilicdaroglu added without giving a source for that information.

The inflationary surge has hit Erdogan’s popularity ahead of national elections due no later than June 2023, in which Kilicdaroglu is seen as a potential contender for the presidency.

Years of double-digit inflation in addition to the recent jump have eroded household savings and earnings. Shopkeepers, city councils, and a religious community group have spoken out about the rising energy bills.

The lira lost 44 percent against the dollar last year largely due to the monetary easing, which began in September despite rising
inflation. The depreciation stoked inflation through Turkey’s heavy flow of imports.

The easing cycle was part of Erdogan’s new economic program that aims to boost exports, credit and investment, and that the government says will eventually ease inflation.

Read more: Turkey’s lira declines to weakest since December over Ukraine concerns

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