With June’s Turkish parliamentary elections looming, new polling has bad news for the ambitions of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. While his AK party still leads, it’s down to 42 percent—imperiling his chances to garner the supermajority he’ll need to change the country’s constitution to a Presidential, rather than Prime Ministerial, system. The Wall Street Journal analyzes some of the reasons behind the drop-off:
An April survey from Metropoll Strategic and Social Research Center showed 57% of voters disapproved of the government’s stewardship of Turkey’s $800-billion economy, while those approving hit a record low of 34%.
In May, consumer confidence slumped to its lowest level since March 2009, when the global financial crisis pushed Turkey into a recession. Unemployment—now at a five-year high of 11%—tops voter concerns, Istanbul-based Koc University found in an April survey, where participants said the government is failing to provide economic growth.
Turkey’s economy has been sliding for a while, with serious political consequences. Erdogan, who polled 52 percent during last year’s Presidential elections, remains personally popular. But he needs more than that if he wants fundamentally to transform the Turkish system. In Turkey, as with everywhere else, there’s only so much you can do if you mismanage the economy.
And Erdogan is not going down without a fight—even an ugly one. In a speech on Tuesday, he lashed out at The New York Times over negative international press coverage:
“It [the NY Times] is giving orders to the US and other [countries’] forces. You are a newspaper and you will know your place. You will say there is pressure in Erdoğan’s Turkey and you want American intervention in this. You are interfering in Turkey by running this story and going outside the boundaries of your freedom,”
As the NYT pointed out in its rebuttal, Erdogan has been intimidating Turkish media for some time now, and lately it’s gotten worse, as criminal charges were filed against major newspaper Hurriyet over a supposed veiled threat in a headline. Meanwhile, the Turkish President reached down to the municipal level to block an honorary local citizenship being awarded on cultural grounds to a Boston Globe writer, because the writer had disparaged him in a January column. The President only made the call once the writer had already landed in the country.
At the risk of sounding like a foreign paper that doesn’t know its place, we’d say that almost seems petty and insecure, Mr. President.