For ordinary citizens Turkey’s emergency rule is irrelevant to economic troubles
There are always discrepancies between campaign promises and the policies that are implemented after elections. Probably only a tiny fraction of the more than 59 million people expected to vote will read the election manifestos of political parties and presidential candidates. What will more effectively shape their views will be the messages delivered during campaign rallies.
In this sense, what is said and not said may give us a clue about the perception of political parties and presidential candidates regarding voters’ expectations.
It is safe to say that the primary concern of a large majority of voters in Turkey is the deteriorating economic situation. In this respect it is striking to see how the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan do not see a direct link between the economy and ongoing state of emergency rule. Despite calls from the country’s top business group, the Turkish Business and Industry Association (TÜSİAD), to lift emergency rule, the AKP and the president does not appear to share the conviction of business circles that taking this step will improve Turkey’s international economic (and political) image, which in turn would have a positive reflection on the domestic economic situation.
Indeed, the state of emergency is only one of the factors affecting the economic deterioration, and the ordinary citizen does not tend to attribute economic troubles to it. In fact, the president and AKP spokepeople are somewhat correct to argue that most people do not feel the effects of emergency rule in their daily lives. As for the tens of thousands of people who have been subject to injustices due to the state of emergency, the president and ruling party elites seem to consider their reaction in the ballot box to be negligible.
In this sense, one has to give credit to Erdoğan and the AKP for not hiding their intention to continue emergency rule. “Without hurting the fundamental rights and freedoms of our citizens, we will continue the state of emergency until the peace of our citizens and national security is fully established,” says the party’s election manifesto. This comes alongside a pledge for a “stronger democracy,” which obviously will come as something of a contradiction to a foreign observer.
“I promise peace. Is there a bigger project than that?” said Muharrem İnce, the presidential candidate of Republican People’s Party (CHP), who appears to be the strongest contestant so far against Erdoğan.
The president has been praising megaprojects like the Marmaray (the underwater tunnel linking Europe and Anatolia) and the third bridge over the Bosphorus, while accusing the opposition of underestimating the importance such projects.
İnce has indeed criticized these megaprojects, blasting Erdoğan for turning the country into concrete. In fact, one of the CHP’s campaign slogans is: “From a concrete economy to a production economy.” When questioned last week about what kind of projects he has in mind if he is elected president, İnce repeated his vow to establish “peace” in the country. Instead of “barış,” which literally translates into English as “peace,” İnce interestingly used the word “huzur,” which can better be translated as a peaceful, calm and stable state of mind.
So while the promise from opposition parties to lift the state of emergency may not appear an effective panacea to economic strains, the promise of “huzur/peace” could appeal – especially to undecided voters.
Race for cash transfer
Ahead of the June 24 election, all parties are in an intense race in terms of their economic pledges. It is striking to see that almost all are promising to deliver cash transfers, additional payments to retired people and students, or postponement of debts of certain groups of people.
The AKP trusts in its 16 years of economic achievements to convince voters, while CHP candidate İnce has been promising to generate resources by curbing waste. He particularly criticizes current economic models in which many projects - like the third bridge over the Bosphorus – put additional burdens on taxpayers, especially the majority of citizens who do not even use them. İnce is thus aiming to woo AKP voters who have seen the improvements in the first years of AKP rule stall over the past few years.
Indeed, it may be such voters - who were once the bigger beneficiaries of Erdoğan’s initial policies but who have started to suffer from economic strains – that determine the outcome of the election.