Turkey’s current government, the AKP, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, won 48% of the vote in local elections last Sunday. The main opposition achieved just 28%.
Prime Minister Recep Erdogan pledged to punish his rivals for being part of what he described as a foreign-backed conspiracy to topple his government.
In recent months, Erdogan has sought to derail a corruption probe into his administration by overhauling the police and the judiciary.
What the commentators said
Turkey under the AKP, which gained power in 2003, “offered hope of an Islamist majority that could govern as a pluralist democracy”, said The Wall Street Journal. But in recent years it has started to look more like a “sectarian autocracy”.
Erdogan has arrested critics and journalists, tried to politicise the judiciary and even tried to ban Twitter and Facebook, two news sources that counteract the AKP’s media dominance.
But none of this seems to bother the average voter much, as Ali Berat Meric noted on Bloomberg.com. That’s because the AKP has given the economy a big boost. Turkey’s GDP per head, adjusted for inflation, has doubled to $15,000 since it took office. The party improved infrastructure and health care provision.
“Without a major economic downturn… the Turkish people will not give up their attachment to AKP”, said Omer Taspinar of the Brookings Institution.
But that might not be too far away. The economy is slowing sharply. Recent jitters over the prospect of the US Federal Reserve reducing its level of money printing have forced the Turkish central bank to raise interest rates sharply to keep much-needed foreign capital from fleeing the country, noted Capital Economics.
This hike in rates is likely to cause domestic demand to slow sharply, or even shrink. If Erdogan’s popularity depends on rapid economic growth, his star may well have peaked.