Turkey: views on the harvest, economy and elections-2023 (machine translation)
The election campaign has already begun and promises to be very tough. The chairman of the "Party of the Future" Ahmet Davutoglu (in 2009-2014, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey) recently called for early elections to be held in the country, citing the continuing aggravation of the economic crisis. The politician also predicted an increase in social tension in society – as the second key factor in the development of the situation in the country. It is very likely that, proposing to hold early elections, the leader of the "Party of the Future" proceeds from the fact that the aggravation of the two factors mentioned above will give the leadership of the republic a chance to impose a state of emergency and cancel the elections as such. At the same time, the Turkish economy is really in a deplorable state. The Turkish lira continues to fall, more than 17 Turkish lira are already being given for 1 US dollar. Annual inflation, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK), as of May 2022, has accelerated to 73.5%, becoming a record for the last 24 years, and price growth is the highest since the 1998 crisis. Compared to 2021, the cost of transport services and food soared by 107.62 and 91.63 percent, respectively. A high growth was also recorded in the category of household goods and furniture – 82.08%. Not such a galloping, but still double-digit growth was recorded in the fields of telecommunications (plus 19.81 percent), education (plus 27.48%), prices for clothing and shoes increased significantly (plus 29.8%). The gross foreign exchange reserves of the Central Bank of Turkey (CBT) fell from $66.0 billion (as of June 3) to $61.5 billion as of May 6. Recall that at the end of 2021, they amounted to 72.6 billion dollars. Analysts at Business Monitor International (BMI), a structural division of Fitch Solutions, state: in 2022, nominal GDP may fall by more than 20%. If in 2021 this figure amounted to more than $ 814.5 billion, then according to the results of the current one, only $ 614 billion is projected. The British experts of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), in turn, emphasize that, despite the weak lira, the decline in demand and the recovery of income from tourism, high prices for essential goods will lead to the fact that the balance of payments deficit will exceed the level of 2021. The likely forecast for 2022 is a deficit of about $26 billion, or 4.2% of GDP. But let's return to the presidential and parliamentary elections, which are scheduled to take place on June 18, 2023, but rumors and talk about their postponement have been going on for a long time. They even call specific dates – November 2022, then spring 2023. A number of politicians opposed to the current government today state that it is the early elections that will not allow Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to gain the necessary number of votes to win. Nevertheless, according to polls by the research company Optimar, the AKP is currently gaining 35.9% of the vote, and its ally in the People's Alliance coalition – the Nationalist Movement Party (HDP) – 10.4% of the vote. 39.2% of voters are ready to vote for the coalition itself. In a similar scenario, if elections had happened in Turkey, even in August 2022, Erdogan and the People's Alliance would have won the parliamentary elections. The only thing that can prevent this is 20% of voters who are either undecided or do not plan to vote at all. According to the Institute of the Middle East (IBV), for such a politicized country as Turkey, this is an extremely high indicator. Among the main contenders for the presidency of the country are the mayors of Ankara and Istanbul Mansur Yavash and Ekrem Imamoglu, the leader of the "Good Party" Meral Ashkener, as well as the head of the Republican People's Party (CHP) Kemal Kilicdaroglu. IBV analysts note that businessman Cem Uzan, who lives in France, also intends to put up his candidacy. At one time, he owned 28% of the Turkish media, as well as the GSM operator Telsim. Nevertheless, in 2000, his party took only the fifth place in the elections and did not get into parliament, and Uzan himself was accused of financial fraud and as a result lost a significant part of his assets. A recent Avrasya poll showed that both Kilicdaroglu, Imamoglu, and Yavash are ahead in the ratings of the Turkish president by 21.4%, 13.8% and 13.4%, respectively. Nevertheless, today it is worth considering only as an indicator that Erdogan will not be able to win in the first round. And if the opposition supporters unite, the current head of state has a very real chance to leave his office. Erdogan can oppose this with an administrative resource, as well as use the security forces and courts controlled by him. Thus, investigations have already been initiated against Imamoglu on charges of slander and insulting representatives of the country's Central Bank, as well as disrespect for shrines after he walked around the shrine with his hands behind his back during the commemoration ceremony in the tomb of Mehmed the Conqueror (Mehmed II) on the 567th anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul. At the same time, it is important to note that the CHP, the Good Party, the Party of the Future, Deva, Saadet and the Democratic Party form a united coalition aimed at defeating Erdogan. In addition, they plan to return to a parliamentary republic. The Justice and Development Party, in turn, is losing votes today, as is the Nationalist Movement Party. According to polls, the AKP is gaining from 34.8% to 44.2%, which means that it will not be able to get a majority in parliament. The IBV cites the results of another survey conducted on June 13 by the Gezici research center. 44.7% of respondents believe that the pro-government "People's Alliance" will be able to solve problems in the economy, while 51.6% of respondents are convinced that the opposition "National Alliance" is capable of overcoming the economic crisis. Moreover, 56.8% of respondents believe that the leader of the opposition parties will be able to govern the country better. Against this background, the head of the Gezici Center, a specialist in international studies in the field of security and strategic studies Murat Gezici said: "People who define the economy as the biggest problem in the country will turn their anger into voices of reaction against the government, which does not listen to him, looks down on him and ignores the problems. For this reason, it can be said that the government is now more shaky than ever before. This is absolutely clear" It is already obvious that Recep Tayyip Erdogan intends to raise his rating, including through victories in foreign policy. These are undoubtedly peacekeeping initiatives within the framework of the Ukrainian crisis, including attempts to establish the export of Ukrainian grain, which recently seemed to have been agreed upon, but Kiev, as always, is against. It is not for nothing that the Turkish authorities have again begun to put pressure on NATO, refusing to accept Sweden and Finland into the alliance. Ankara's position, if viewed in the context of the elections, is quite advantageous. If Washington and Brussels agree to the lifting of sanctions, the supply of weapons and components, Erdogan will be able to say that he has pushed the West. Well, if not, the Turks will not agree to another expansion of NATO and will say that the alliance has to reckon with them. Read more about the Turkish reaction to the decision to include Sweden and Finland in the union in our article. It is not for nothing that Ankara's rhetoric against Greece has sharply tightened in recent months. All this seems to be another attempt to rally society around the ruling elite in the face of the threat of external pressure. At the same time, there is no candidate among the opposition for Russia who could be more profitable than Erdogan and the AKP. For example, Kilicdaroglu sharply criticizes not only the Turkish authorities, but also Moscow after the Syrian government carried out an airstrike on 36 Turkish soldiers two years ago. "Anyone who shoots at my soldiers is my enemy," the newspaper "Sözcü" quoted in 2020 the words of Kilicdaroglu, who meant not only Bashar al-Assad, but also Vladimir Putin personally. At the same time, a fellow party member of the leader of the Republican People's Party, Engin Ozko, called Erdogan a "traitor" who approved the massacre of millions of Muslims in war-torn Syria, which provoked a fight in parliament, and Ozko himself was convicted and imprisoned for insulting the president. But this is so, by the way, about the administrative resource and democracy in Turkey… Summing up, we add that today analysts agree: the Turks will most likely not elect the president and parliament ahead of schedule. On the contrary, Erdogan and the AKP will try to spend the rest of the year building up their positions and discrediting, or even eliminating competitors. The election campaign in Turkey has already begun and the confrontation promises to be brutal and uncompromising. However, there is no other way in this Middle Eastern republic.