Turkey was hit by the strongest earthquake in the last 80 years – the tremors were so powerful that they immediately affected six regions in the center and south of the country. The number of victims of the elements is constantly growing and has already exceeded seven thousand people. The number of destroyed buildings and structures in the country is also in the thousands. Parlamentskaya Gazeta asked the expert of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Elena Suponina about the consequences of the earthquake for the political situation in the Republic of Turkey.
Presidential Election in Doubt
As the political scientist-orientalist noted, the Turkish opposition will try to use the tragedy in their own interests in order to weaken the position of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Now, instead of focusing on helping the victims, the opposition is already dispersing new topics related to the consequences of the disaster. In particular, they raise questions about why some buildings took shape so quickly like houses of cards and why they were not seismically protected as other buildings in the same neighborhoods and cities. These claims will be put forward to Erdogan with a clear goal – to undermine his position on the eve of the presidential elections, tentatively scheduled for mid-May this year, ”the expert emphasized.
She added that in the event of increased opposition pressure, Erdogan still has the opportunity to postpone the date of the presidential elections indefinitely: “Erdogan has the opportunity to move the date of the elections. Moreover, in some regions of Turkey, the president has already declared a state of emergency for three months. And some analysts suggest that Erdogan may even cancel these elections if there is a pressing need.”
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There is no bad without good
According to Suponina, the Turkish president can use the dramatic situation in the country to strengthen his power and attract additional electorate: “Many people pay tribute to the president’s quick reaction to the tragic events. Despite his age, he moves around the country very actively, making decisions quickly. Rescue teams are working smoothly and quickly.” According to the orientalist, Erdogan has again demonstrated to the whole world that he is a master of international diplomacy: “The Turkish president has good relations with a number of states that are now helping him. Not only Russia sent its rescue teams to Turkey, but also Ukraine and many Western countries. Probably, only Erdogan can maneuver between everyone like that. And people noticed it.”
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
The political scientist drew attention to the fact that Erdogan’s strong point is his personal sincere religiosity and the religiosity of the ruling Justice and Development Party headed by him: “After such catastrophes, religious sentiments are even more exacerbated in society. Explanations for what happened are usually sought, including in the other world. So secular sentiments, which are mainly held by the opposition, may not be to the taste of many voters in Turkey.”
Impact on the national economy
The expert believes that the national economy of Turkey will face hard times, and the consequences of the earthquake are catastrophic for the country. “The Turkish economy left much to be desired, but after what happened, tourism will not recover soon. Big problems arise in trade operations, in operations with real estate. Moreover, many projects that Erdogan relied on are hanging up. These are infrastructure projects for the development of cities, projects for the modernization and development of the Bosphorus. Erdogan insisted on them, but now the question will arise about investments for the implementation of these projects and about their seismological stability. Erdogan will have a hard time,” added Suponina.