Turkey’s main opposition leader left without electricity for refusing to pay bills in protest

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Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has announced that the electricity was cut off in his apartment in Ankara since he refused to pay electricity bills in protest of recent hikes in energy prices.

Kılıçdaroğlu tweeted a video on Thursday saying he had just been informed by his wife that the electricity in their apartment was cut off.

“I took this path for the millions who are subjected to this. My action is not a call for civil disobedience. It is an act of resistance. My protest is aimed at being a voice for the families and children who are left in darkness,” Kılıçdaroğlu said in his message.

Customers who are unable to pay their electricity and natural gas bills on their due date are given five and 15 more days, respectively to pay them by the energy distribution companies in Turkey, or else have their utilities cut off.

The CHP later shared from its Twitter account the moment when the Kılıçdaroğlu family’s electricity was disconnected by officials from the Başkent Electricity distribution company.

 

The CHP leader had tweeted another video in February calling on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to cancel the increases in electricity prices, which he “undersigned personally on the night of December 31,” adding that he wouldn’t pay his electricity bills until Erdoğan reversed the price hikes.

“You did this [increased electricity prices], [that’s why] you’ll cancel them,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

Turks started 2022 with news of jacked-up prices, fueled by a currency crisis amid the highest rate of inflation in nearly two decades.

Turkey’s Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EPDK) announced on Jan. 1 that it had raised electricity prices by 52 percent for lower-demand households for the new year and 127 percent for high-demand commercial users, while the Petroleum Pipeline Corporation (BOTAŞ) raised natural gas prices by 25 percent for households and 50 percent for industrial users.

Following Kılıçdaroğlu’s call, a number of Turks posted tweets protesting high electricity bills under the hashtags #faturamıödemiyorum (I’m not paying my bill), #SıraSende (It’s your turn) and #IBAN, which became top trending topics in Turkey.

Thousands of people across Turkey also have held demonstrations against the rising electricity prices they have faced since the beginning of the year.

In response to the widespread protests, President Erdoğan in early March announced a reduction of the sales tax on electricity used in residences and agricultural irrigation from 18 percent to 8 percent.

According to a report drafted by CHP lawmaker and deputy chairman Ahmet Akın based on a number of questions he directed to the country’s Energy and Natural Resources Ministry under the law on the right to obtain information, 3,449,000 customers of electricity distribution companies and around 1,093,000 subscribers of natural gas distribution companies had their electricity and natural gas supply disconnected in 2021 due to unpaid bills.

The figures showed that an average of 378,000 electricity and natural gas subscribers were cut off every month in 2021.

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