Erdoğan’s surprising popularity in earthquake-damaged areas


After February’s earthquakes in Turkey, thousands of families are still living in tents or container houses in the affected areas. The government’s slow response to deploying rescue teams and humanitarian aid, added to the inflationary crisis the country is facing, has led analysts and opposition parties to believe that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be punished in the upcoming elections. Instead, another term awaits him. In the earthquake-hit provinces, Erdoğan’s party, the Islamist AKP, remains the force with the most votes and, interestingly, lost only one MP. Only in the province of Diyarbakir, inhabited by a Kurdish majority, the opposition presidential candidate Kemal Kiliçdaroglu won a majority – in Hatay, one of the most affected provinces, he won the first round of the presidential election by a narrow margin. However, Erdoğan was ahead in the second round. Forensic experts, geologists and politicians agree that irregularities in the construction sector in seismically active areas (Erdoğan’s government granted an amnesty to construction companies that did not comply with building regulations) caused the collapse of more than 200 thousand buildings during an earthquake. Emre Erdoğan, a political scientist from Bilgi University in Istanbul, points out that despite the economic and other problems faced by the country, voters identify more with ideas that refer to morality. “Despite the enormity of the catastrophe that affected Turkey, citizens have already accepted it, and some of them have interpreted the earthquake for the needs of their own political perspective. Erdoğan’s voters recognized that what had happened to their country was a twist of fate that could not be predicted,” explains the expert. “They also believe that no one other than the current government could have faced this catastrophe, therefore the earthquake had no negative impact on the party and the support it enjoys.” Against all odds, turnout in the affected areas only fell minimally – despite the fact that 1.5 million voters who fled to other provinces of the country had to return to their regions to be able to vote. Opposition parties and humanitarian organizations mobilized hundreds of buses to make it easier for families affected (including financially) by the tragedy to vote. In the second round of the presidential election last Sunday, the turnout dropped slightly – possibly due to the difficulty of people to finance and make a double trip in such a short time. Social polarization played a more important role in the election than criticism of the current government for its post-earthquake response or management economy. Added to this is the dominance of most of the media, which constantly draw attention to the reconstruction work in the region. A survey conducted by an Ankara research institute revealed a polarized perception of how authorities handled the disaster: over 90 percent of Erdoğan’s voters believe that the government has dealt with it effectively, while 93 percent of opposition voters blame the government for the slowness of rescue operations and the distribution of humanitarian aid. The research institute notes that the government’s continued presence in the region after the earthquake convinced a large part of the population that only Erdoğan could rebuild the area. The Turkish president has announced the construction of 650,000 houses and promised that half of them would be completed within a year. According to a political scientist from Bilgi University, 76 days after the earthquake, Erdoğan appeared on television inaugurating the construction of the first houses, which was nothing more than part of the election campaign. Paradoxically, such actions had a positive impact on the electorate. Source: elmundo

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