Turkey’s economic turmoil, fueled by a currency crisis amid unprecedented tensions with the United States last summer, has become the primary concern of Turkish voters ahead of local elections on March 31.
Two recent opinion polls suggest economic woes will sway the outcome of the elections, with the state of the economy and unemployment topping the list of what voters see as the country’s primary problems.
This has not been good news for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the surveys point to a decline in popular support for his Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has been in power since 2002.
The AKP is contesting the local elections in partnership with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which was also its electoral ally in last year’s presidential and parliamentary polls.
The question now is whether the AKP could change the popular focus on the economy or make up for the loss of votes with MHP support.
Economy, economy, economy and then maybe Syrian refugees
Meanwhile in the news given Al-Monitor website with the title “Economic woes set to seal the fate of Turkey’s local polls. In their news, they included the opinion poll made by survey companies.
According to the first opinion poll, conducted by the Potsdam Institute for Applied Research in mid-January, the economy, unemployment and Syrians were the three top answers that respondents gave when asked what they saw as “Turkey’s most important problem.”
According to the results, 34.5% saw the economy as the country’s top problem, followed by 14.6% who singled out unemployment.
Remarkably, the issue of Syrian refugees rose for the first time high on the list, with 12.6% of respondents identifying Syrians as the country’s most important problem.
Asked whether they believed Turkey’s economy would return to normal in the short term, 58.9% said no, 26.4% said yes and 14.7% said they had no idea.
The respondents were also asked which party they would back if parliamentary elections were to be held next Sunday. After a proportional allocation of 13.8% of undecided, the AKP got 35% — well below the 42.56% it mustered in the 2018 elections. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) came in second in the survey with 25.9%, followed by the MHP with 13.6%, the Good Party — created in 2017 by MHP defectors — with 12.1% and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) with 11%.
Another opinion poll conducted by research company Optimar in late December and early January turned up similar results.
The head of the company, Hilmi Dasdemir, told Sputnik that economic problems topped the concerns of the electorate. “According to the latest figures, 35% believe the economy is the most important problem and 27% believe it is unemployment. In other words, the solution of economy-related problems is a priority for 62% of the people,” he said.
The Optimar survey also reflected a decline in the AKP’s popular support. Asked which party they would vote for in the March 31 local elections, 32.5% of respondents expressed support for the AKP. The ruling party was followed by the CHP with 20.4%, the Good Party with 5.5%, the MHP and the HDP with 5.4% each, and the Islamist Felicity Party with 1%. Another 1.2% picked “other parties,” while 27% said they remained undecided.
Commenting on the results of the surveys, CHP spokesman and former Treasury undersecretary Faik Oztrak told Al-Monitor, “The people are experiencing the economic turmoil in the form of higher prices. We expect the economic contraction to sway the choices of voters. It is time for the people to show a yellow card to the ruling party.