Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan kicked off his official election campaign on 10 March. The presidential and parliamentary elections have been brought forward to 14 May, having originally been scheduled for 18 June. Erdogan said that the change will boost voter turnout by avoiding any clash with university exams, school holidays and the Hajj pilgrimage.
With a high rate of inflation, the Turkish Lira losing value and the devastating earthquakes, the elections are seen as Turkiye’s most important in its post-Ottoman history. According to the Daily Sabah, they are important in terms of foreign and domestic policy as well as economic outlook.
The president also hopes that an earlier election will get major issues out of the way as soon as possible and allow the country’s wounds to heal post-earthquakes.
“It is a must for our country to put this election agenda behind us to recover from and eliminate all traces of the earthquakes, and to boost production and employment,” he explained. “Our agenda will again consist of healing the wounds of the survivours and compensating for the economic and social damage of the disaster.” He still insists on the target of having the first batch of 319,000 new homes to be handed over within a year.
Erdogan is facing major challenges in his attempt to win a third term as Turkiye’s president. There is a propaganda war and a broad opposition alliance pitched against him. His local and international opponents are trying to mislead Turkish voters in order to shift their support to the president’s secularist rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Unfortunately, respected international — mainly Western — media have taken part in the myth-spreading.
The myths include the slower than normal Turkish government response to the earthquakes. Although Erdogan apologised and pointed to the roads being blocked by damaged buildings and suchlike, it is a fact that the reality on the ground was very different to what has been claimed by his opponents.
Under Erdogan, for example, Turkiye established the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) in 2009 with 81 branches across the country, in addition to eleven search and rescue units. It is the first such official group with a huge budget in Turkiye, which experiences at least one earthquake a year. The AFAD and the other government bodies have offered and organised unlimited support for the people affected by the earthquakes. Moreover, it was Erdogan’s secularist opposition which mobilised against a government-proposed project intended to renovate or rebuild old buildings to make them more earthquake resistant. The project was dropped under the resultant public pressure.
The Turkish lira has fallen in value and inflation has got worse largely due to an economic war waged by the US and its Western allies because Erdogan has sought to remove the international domination of the Turkish banking system.
It was with Erdogan at the helm that Turkiye has been able to turn into an industrialised country and join the G20. His economic strategy is based on a real economy which gains revenues mainly from work and production, not from bank and loan interest. He has pushed to reduce interest rates in Turkiye despite the negative impact on the value of the Lira and inflation.
His economic strategy is also based on having a diversified economy with a variety of revenue sources. This has encouraged positive economic growth and development. Added to this is the fact that more Turks than ever are property owners who do not have to commit 50 per cent or more of their income to paying rent to a landlord. This is why relatively low incomes; the depreciation of the Lira; and inflation do not combine to make the Turkish people poor, at least not to the degree reported in the Western media, economists have told me.
Further evidence that the Turkish economy is growing can be seen in the increasing number of foreign companies opening offices or branches in the country, as well as the increasing number of new companies established by foreign investors. Official recent data showed that Turkiye’s economy expanded by 5.6 per cent despite the global economic crises affecting many other countries.
Turkiye has a major economic flow which depends on external finance, but Erdogan has been able to encourage the deposit of billions of dollars in Turkish banks from friendly countries such as Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. “If Turkiye could reduce its demand for external financing, the country would become less vulnerable to changes in the global financial cycles,” said one economic expert. “If this happens, Turkiye will be able to protect the Lira exchange rate.”
Propaganda being what it is, and what it is intended to do, it is hard to read, listen or watch Western media reports about Turkiye which do not describe Erdogan as a dictator or claim that the country is oppressive in terms of personal freedoms, freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The presidential system, which exists in the US, France and other “free” countries, is only a symbol of “dictatorship” in Turkiye, it seems.
Among the most controversial issues exploited by Western propagandists are homosexuality and gay rights. These are generally unacceptable in any Muslim country, because rejecting them is a matter of faith, not politics. It would be nice to see the Western media being neutral and objective, but they fall short in this regard. Most corporate media outlets in the West serve the colonial policies and interests of Western governments. This is very obvious in the coverage of Palestine and Ukraine. A Palestinian fighting the Western-backed Israeli occupation is designated as a terrorist, but a Ukrainian fighting the Russian occupation is a hero.
Turkiye owes nothing to the International Monetary Fund; Erdogan’s governments have paid off the 80-year-old debts to the institution. He plans to make Turkiye one of the ten biggest global economies by the end of this year, and wants Turkiye to be free of all colonial powers.
As we have seen in Palestine, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, Western media look for real or fake crises when an Islamist is leading the country. Western solutions to regional problems inevitably involve replacing Islamists with secular regimes. With secularists in charge, suddenly all of the problems disappear, and media reports take on a very different approach.
Hypocrisy is one way to describe this, but what it really entails is regime change imposed from foreign capitals. Governments and media in the West complain bitterly about foreign interference in their own domestic politics, but they are as guilty as anyone in this respect, and their interference in Turkiye is a prime example.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.