Erdoğan pays electoral price for Turkey’s tumbling economy: report

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) and Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak Berat Albayrak. AFP PHOTOS

After a decade and a half of dominance built on Turkey’s buoyant growth President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has paid a heavy electoral price for an economic slump and will make changes to his government to halt the damage, senior officials in his party said on Monday, Reuters reported.

Erdoğan saw his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) lose the capital Ankara in Sunday’s local elections and appeared set for defeat in Turkey’s largest city İstanbul — stunning reversals in two bastions of the party since he took power in 2003.

The setbacks came despite a relentless two-month campaign by the president who addressed up to eight rallies a day, condemned his opponents as terrorists and warned that the vote was a “matter of survival” for Turkey.

The secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) overcame overwhelming media support for the AKP and an environment which European observers said fell short of requirements for “genuine democratic elections.” The AKP said it would appeal the results in both cities.

Turkey has experienced years of rapid economic growth under Erdoğan, underpinned by a construction boom and cheap loans, that have driven living standards ever higher and ensured the AKP won votes well beyond its core constituency of pious and conservative Turks.

But the recent economic troubles took a toll on party support, two AKP sources said, after the lira slumped against the dollar last year, inflation jumped to 20 percent, unemployment climbed and the economy tipped into recession.

“We saw the impact of the economy in the field, because there was serious unease,” one of the sources said, adding that İstanbul accounted for 40 percent of Turkey’s economy, meaning that any slowdown would hit the city hard.

In total, three party sources told Reuters Erdoğan was likely to implement cabinet changes in response to the setback but gave no details. “There will certainly be changes in some places,” one source said.

After Erdoğan won elections last June which ushered in a powerful new executive presidency, he also appointed his son-in-law Berat Albayrak as finance and treasury minister. The sources declined to say whether Albayrak’s position might be affected.

“If [Erdoğan] cannot create a solution, it’s inevitable that there will be greater losses in the period ahead,” another party source said.

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