With a faltering economy, elections in the spring and the centenary in October, everyone in Turkey knew the country would have an eventful 2023. The devastating earthquakes that occurred in February also made it a transformative year. Look back.
Op 29 oktober 2023 verzamelden duizenden inwoners van Istanboel zich langs het water van de Bosporus. Daar wachtte hen een vliegshow, een optocht van marineschepen en een afsluitend vuurwerk. Dit alles om het honderdjarig bestaan van de republiek Turkije te vieren.
Maar de straaljagers haalden hun acrobatische toeren een aantal kilometer verderop uit en ook het vuurwerk bleef vrijwel uit zicht van het grote publiek. Wie wel goed zicht had? President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Het was ergens symbolisch, want Erdogan trok ook het afgelopen jaar weer alle aandacht naar zich toe. Allereerst vanwege zijn verkiezingswinst afgelopen mei, maar ook vanwege zijn rol in het aardbevingsdrama en de economische malaise. Precies de drie zaken die Turkije in zijn greep hielden het afgelopen jaar.
Painful correction due to economic headwinds
For many Turks, 2023 ends as it began: with expensive groceries, rising bills and worries about the economy. The previous year was no different and the coming months do not bode well for the portfolio. This is because drastic measures are needed to get the economy back on track.
In recent years, Erdogan has relied on a recipe for cheap loans and interest rate cuts and the belief that these interest rate cuts can combat high inflation. Which led to an unworkable situation.
After the elections, things changed: there was a new finance minister, the top of the Turkish Central Bank was completely replaced, taxes increased, available cheap loans decreased, and interest rates rose sharply.
But just as it takes time for an oil tanker to change course, a package of measures also takes a long time to have an impact. The Turkish Central Bank expects to end the current year with an inflation rate of 65 percent and next year 36 percent.
The Turkish opposition is wrong in the elections
A faltering economy usually spells the end for a sitting prime minister or president. In the period leading up to the elections last May, it seemed that the end of the Erdogan era was looming on the horizon. He has performed poorly in the polls for months. Everything seemed to be going well in the opposition camp, thanks to cooperation between several parties.
The Turkish opposition seemed so convinced of its position that last November it presented a complete plan for the post-Erdogan period, complete with a return to the parliamentary form of government and all kinds of proposals for a new constitution.
When Erdogan and his government failed after the devastating earthquakes that struck the country on February 6, the path to electoral victory seemed wide open for the opposition. Things went differently.
Erdogan understood better than the opposition that many voters are not affected only by the poor economic situation or mediocre government actions in the wake of earthquakes. The president also cleverly presented religious conservatism and Turkish nationalism as a package. His propaganda machine, unfair playing field, and election giveaways did the rest.
Türkiye was not prepared to face the earthquake
On February 6, Türkiye and Syria were hit by two major earthquakes. The disaster affected an area equivalent to the size of the Netherlands and Belgium combined. It caused serious damage in eleven Turkish provinces. More than 50,000 residents were killed and twice that number injured.
Turkey was not adequately prepared to face the disaster and the relief and rescue operation did not go according to plan. In the first days following the earthquakes, it also became clear that Turkey had not been able to build safer, despite lessons learned from the previous major earthquake in 1999. This was partly due to poor adherence to rules and lack of supervision.
The first new homes in the earthquake zone have now been completed. Erdogan said earlier this month that 46,000 new homes would be completed this year, far short of the promised 319,000 homes. A total of 650,000 new homes must be built in the affected area. But when this number will be achieved remains a matter of speculation.
Erdogan launched his election campaign this year under the slogan “Continue following the chosen path.” We will have to see whether this path is still satisfactory in March. Then there are local elections.
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