Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has slammed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for saying “no one is hungry” in Turkey in response to criticism of the country’s economic crisis, during a visit to a family whose power was cut due to unpaid electricity bills, local media reported on Saturday.
“Now, some people come out and say ‘we are hungry.’ Don’t make things up. How is it that you are hungry? There is no one who’s hungry [in Turkey]!” Erdoğan said on Friday in a televised speech.
The president’s remarks come as millions are battling poverty in Turkey, which is currently in the midst of an economic crisis as consumer prices accelerated to an annual rate of 69.97 percent in April, up from 61.14 percent in March, according to official data.
Food and fuel prices have more than doubled in the last few months. An increasing number of Turks have complained on social media about rising electricity bills and falling into debt. Many have said they can’t even afford basic foods such as fruits and vegetables.
The CHP leader on Saturday visited construction worker Mustafa Atalay and his wife Hazal, whose electricity was cut due to unpaid utility bills, accusing Erdoğan of being “out of touch with reality.”
After chatting with the family, Kılıçdaroğlu spoke to reporters, saying those who claimed there was no one hungry in Turkey should come and see the Atalays.
“This isn’t a pleasant situation. … The mother can’t take good care of the children due to health problems. They’re also having food and electricity problems. … This drama … isn’t unique to Van. … Such dramas exist everywhere [in Turkey]. No one can accept such a situation in 21st century Turkey,” the CHP leader said.
Addressing Erdoğan, Kılıçdaroğlu added: “There is no hunger in the [presidential] palace, I know this very well. … If you want to face the reality of Turkey, then come, sit down with these people, have a look at their houses, talk to them, hold their children in your arms, [and] listen to their problems. You are sitting [in the palace], disconnected from life [and] reality.”
Over the past several years Turkey has been suffering from a deteriorating economy, with high inflation and unemployment as well as a poor human rights record. Erdoğan is criticized for mishandling the economy, emptying the state’s coffers and establishing one-man rule in the country where dissent is suppressed and opponents are jailed on politically motivated charges.
Turkey’s financial troubles have increased since the country was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a sudden surge in the number of suicides and closed businesses. A high cost of living has become the new normal in the country, where recent increases in food and utility prices are pushing up inflation, further crippling the purchasing power of citizens.