Aftershock for Erdogan: opposition gains points amid earthquake

Turkish opposition leaders are racing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit parts of the country hit by one of the most devastating earthquakes in recent history. The consequences of the catastrophe are superimposed on the ongoing economic crisis in the state. The opposition, fiercely criticizing the president and the government, started talking about the possibility of postponing the general elections in the republic scheduled for May 14. Izvestia investigated how what happened could affect Turkish politics.

Election in doubt

“I don’t think the elections will be held on May 14, I believe that they will be postponed to June 18,” Meral Aksener, leader of the Turkish opposition Good Party, said.

As the newspaper Duvar (The Wall) notes, the country’s parliament may even decide to postpone the elections for a year.

“We, politicians, must do our bit for the elections to take place,” Aksener concluded. The day before, she visited Kahramanmarash, which was the most affected by the earthquake. In particular, the politician visited the victims, who were temporarily accommodated in the sports hall of the Sutchu Imam University, and also participated in the distribution of food organized by the Erzurum branch of the party.

On February 6, the strongest earthquake since 1939 hit southeastern Turkey with a magnitude of 7.7. After that, another thing happened – a magnitude of 7.6. The aftershocks were followed by hundreds of aftershocks that were felt in 10 provinces and neighboring countries. As a result, more than 20 thousand people died, more than 80 thousand were injured, while the removal of rubble continues.

Other representatives of the opposition are also actively coming to the affected areas. In particular, the leader of the largest opposition Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, together with the mayors of Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. During their speeches, they actively criticize the authorities for what happened.

Photo: Global Look Press/IMAGO/Turkish presidency apaima

“If someone bears the main responsibility [за произошедшее]So this is Erdogan. For more than 20 years, the government has not prepared the country for an earthquake,” Kilicdaroglu said.

According to him, low-quality construction led to a large number of victims. In addition, the politician also accused the government of wasting taxpayers’ money, which is intended to prepare for such actions.

After the 1999 Izmit earthquake, which killed 18,000 people, the authorities began collecting “earthquake taxes.” The leader of the Republican People’s Party wondered what happened to the billions of lire that should have been spent on disaster prevention and the development of emergency services.

According to Bloomberg, dissatisfaction with the authorities is growing due to the insufficiently quick removal of rubble after earthquakes in Turkey. Opposition party officials also allege that heavy equipment and cranes were delayed, missing a critical time to save lives.

As the Western media wrote, many Turks complained about the lack of equipment. Eyewitnesses claim they were forced to wait helplessly next to the rubble of their destroyed homes, unable to save relatives who were trapped inside asking for help.

There were mistakes, but the work continues

The most affected provinces were visited by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. During the visits, he admitted that mistakes were made in the first hours of the tragedy, noting that the measures taken are currently working.

“Of course there are disadvantages. The terms are clear. It is impossible to be prepared for such a catastrophe. This is a time for unity, solidarity. I can’t stand people conducting negative campaigns for political interests,” he said, hinting at opposition actions.

Erdogan declared a state of emergency in the affected areas, sent troops to help, and also promised to provide new housing for those who were left homeless within a year.

Photo: Global Look Press/XinHua/Mustafa Kaya

In the meantime, the demolition continues. However, the work is complicated by a winter storm and freezing temperatures. In addition, in a number of regions the roads were damaged by earthquakes, in some places there is a lack of heavy equipment.

According to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, 95 countries have offered assistance in the aftermath of the earthquake. Currently, almost 6.5 thousand rescuers from 56 countries are participating in search and rescue operations, and several dozen states are going to send their specialists. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted, Russia was one of the first to send its rescuers to Turkey and Syria, and also provided humanitarian assistance to eliminate the consequences of the disaster.

It all depends on Erdogan

So far, the general presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey are scheduled for May 14. According to Reuters, citing officials, the head of state is not going to change the voting date.

The question of a possible postponement of the voting date or its cancellation is rather ambiguous, Alina Sbitneva, a researcher at the Department of the Near and Post-Soviet East of the INION RAS, noted in an interview with Izvestia.

– Turkish lawyers are now saying that what happened will not affect the procedure for holding elections. The state of emergency declared in the country will end just in time for the start of the election process. And in general, according to the Constitution of the country, the cancellation and postponement of voting is clearly regulated in case of war, however, there is no legally clear clause that elections cannot be held in the event of an emergency. Another question is that it can be extended, and Turkey has recently become more and more a presidential republic and much about the elections will now depend on the decision of the head of state, the Turkologist believes.

Photo: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

The expert notes that the Republic of Turkey is now actively trying to cope with the hardships that have fallen on it: saving people, restoring infrastructure in an already difficult economic situation.

– In addition, many are concerned about the issue of elections, which will be held in the country very soon. However, it would be extremely strange for politicians to start a full-fledged election campaign in the conditions of declared national mourning, so now some of them are trying to increase their attractiveness in the eyes of the electorate, making visits to the most affected regions and criticizing the authorities for what happened in front of the already depressed population. They also scold Turkish construction, and it is not clear how the licenses were issued, and the inefficient work of the rescue authorities, the specialist in Turkology summed up.

Sbitneva believes that it is still difficult to say how this will affect the rating of Erdogan and his party.

– In any case, voters will draw their conclusions or have already made them during the 20-year term of the AKP. Of course, there are miscalculations, although one must understand both the scale of the catastrophe and the fact that a change of power does not guarantee a solution to the problems that the opposition is now actively highlighting, the expert believes.

Can turn everything to your advantage

According to Turkologist Yashar Niyazbaev, at present the whole of Turkey has united, the affected regions are being helped by the state, foreign specialists, and each mayor’s office.

“Everyone is doing the work, and everyone will receive a portion of gratitude. But no one will complain, for example, to the Istanbul City Hall or the Republican People’s Party for not providing shelter or paying compensation to someone. The activities of the opposition in this situation can only be assessed positively. There can be no special requirements for her, since she is not in power. And the government can always express claims and dissatisfaction, because it is directly responsible for all the difficulties, hardships and tragedies. Moreover, the affected cities are under the leadership of the ruling party,” thinks expert.

The political scientist believes that any serious mistake reported by the media will be associated with the president and his Justice and Development Party.

“Therefore, voters can vote for Erdogan, but not for the ruling party. It is possible that the president himself will win the elections, but will lose the parliament. Of course, the earthquake dealt a serious blow to the positions of the head of state. But I would not be so categorical. Now the entire opposition has gone to the province of Hatay. They are engaged in business and along the way their own PR, ”summed up the Turkologist.

Photo: Global Look Press/IMAGO/Turkish presidency apaima

Niyazbaev notes that local people complain that they have not received help, they need warmth, clothes, food, water. At the same time, Erdogan is a very experienced politician who, according to the expert, will be able to turn the negative that has arisen against him in his favor.

“Erdogan had many situations in his life when he faced serious trials. He managed to overcome all the difficulties and even become after that the president with absolute power. This means that he knows how to get out of difficult situations, ”the specialist is sure.

At the same time, the political scientist believes that it is unprofitable for the government to move the elections. “There are no guarantees that the president’s rating will not go down. Of course, the opposition will use the earthquake factor. There will be claims that it was necessary to prepare for such a tragedy, but the authorities did not do this. This is a very good reason to once again criticize the country’s leadership. The Turkish opposition has a new trump card against Erdogan,” the expert believes.

Turks need action

Doctor of Political Sciences, Head of the Department of the Near and Post-Soviet East, INION RAS Vladimir Avatkov paid special attention to the speeches of opposition representatives during their visit to the affected regions.

  • The leader of the “Good Party” Meral Aksener could not help but walk through the Turkish Department of Disasters and Emergencies (AFAD) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where she once worked as a minister. She recalled the earlier existence of a law on civil defense, according to which everyone was trained in actions in case of natural disasters, the expert noted.

    Photo: Global Look Press/ Photos

The political scientist added that Aksener complained about the repeal of the law and the establishment of the Office of Disasters and Emergency Management (AFAD).

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  • According to her, few people work in the structure, their number is not enough. What can I say: the opposition has come a fertile time to criticize the current government, despite the fact that the accusations are not always fully justified. In general, all these visits are reminiscent of a game of “who outdoes whom” and will visit more destroyed provinces. People need actions, not empty words and throwing stones from one garden to another, the political scientist summed up in an interview with Izvestia.

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