A new poll has found that public support in Turkey for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party is at an all-time low, a decrease that experts say is mainly due to the country’s economic crisis.
The poll, conducted by Turkish research center Avrasya in October, found that only 32.5 percent of Turkish voters said they would support the Justice and Development Party (AKP) if elections were held today. The same survey found that support had increased for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Turkey’s general elections are still three years away, set to be held in 2023.
While there are many factors for the deteriorating AKP support, experts told Al Arabiya English the economy is the number one factor.
The decline of the Turkish lira has people worried, according to Council of Foreign Relations expert Henri Barkey.
The Turkish lira has taken a nosedive, descending to a record low on Tuesday of 8.45 against the US dollar. It is one of the world’s worst performing currencies this year, down 29 percent, according to Reuters.
The impact of the coronavirus combined with a currency crisis that began in 2018 has led to a sharp recession, leading to “reduced confidence in the AKP government,” Barkey told Al Arabiya English.
‘He desperately needs a scapegoat’
The Turkish people see Erdogan – who has been in power since 2003, holding the position of prime minister until his election as president in 2014 – and his affiliates as to blame for the state of the economy, according to Barkey.
However, Erdogan has blamed foreign actors instead, claiming in May that foreign plots seek to undermine the country’s commerce.
“He desperately needs a scapegoat,” said Barkey.
Critics of the AKP instead attribute the blame to the policies of finance minister Berat Albayrak, aged 41, who is Erdogan’s son-in-law.
Former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in September that nepotism was the only reason for Albayrak’s appointment and that Albayrak had “destroyed Turkey’s economy.”
“Someone needs to be held accountable for the lira’s loss of value,” Davutoglu said, according to Turkish news outlet Duvar.
Fueling foreign conflicts
Another argument made by Erdogan critics is that the Turkish government is paying more attention to interfering in foreign wars than fixing the economic crisis – using the country’s resources to fuel conflicts in Syria, Libya, and now Nagorno-Karabakh.
“One can link the current bad shape of the Turkish economy with the armed conflicts and international and regional tensions that Erdogan has made Turkey a part of,” said exiled journalist Bulent Kenes in an interview with Al Arabiya English.
Ankara has paid thousands of Syrian fighters to support its ally, the Government of National Accord, in Libya, according to the US Defense Department.
Erdogan’s government is also funding Syrian mercenaries to battle alongside Azerbaijan against Armenian forces in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh province, according to French President Emmanuel Macron and Armenian President Armen Sarkissian.