In Turkey, earthquake victims still trust Erdogan
Despite the criticism that targeted the Turkish head of state in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake of February 6, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has retained the confidence of a large part of the voters in the southern provinces and presents himself in a position of strength before the second round. of the presidential election.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s gaze fixes the ruins of Antakya from the poster overlooking them and comforts Ahmet Gulyildizoglu before Sunday’s second round of the presidential election.
In the southern provinces of Turkey devastated by the earthquake of February 6, which killed at least 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria, millions of voters preferred to bet on the man in power for twenty years, who narrowly missed being re-elected on May 14, in the first round.
Faced with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his social-democratic and secular rival Kemal Kiliçdaroglu “does not inflate you with hope”, confides Ahmet Gulyildizoglu in front of a vacant lot where a six-storey building once stood.
“Besides, you have an alliance that keeps its promises,” he insists about President Erdogan’s Islamo-conservative AKP party, allied with several far-right parties.
Keeping the head of state in the disaster areas, despite the delay in relief and the collapse of tens of thousands of buildings on their occupants, contributed to the poor performance in the first round of Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, who collected 44 9% of the vote against 49.5% for Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Unlike the first round, the “reis” is now the big favorite of the second.
Read also Polarize to better rule, Erdogan’s winning electoral strategy
The anger expressed after the earthquake had forced the head of state to make an unusual public apology. But for Berk Esen, professor of political science at Sabanci University in Istanbul, this result is “not very surprising”.
The researcher recalls that most of the affected provinces traditionally vote in favor of the president and believes that its inhabitants accepted Erdogan’s invocation of “destiny” after the disaster, without stopping at the lack of respect for anti-seismic standards.
Moreover, he notes, “the opposition did not conduct an intensive campaign in the region and could not offer a credible alternative message”.
“The Syrians will leave”
Faced with the possibility of defeat, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, 74, changed course. Abandoning his promises of appeasement, he adopted a vehement tone, pledging to expel millions of Syrian refugees “on victory”.
The message resounds in the cities bordering Syria like Antakya, the ancient Antioch.
Kemal Kiliçdaroglu had posters posted there claiming that “the Syrians will leave”. “We will not turn Turkey into a migrant depot,” he said in Antakya on Tuesday.
See also Syrian refugees, collateral victims of the Turkish electoral campaign
A radical speech that appeals to Mehmet Aynaci, 20: “Before the earthquake, if you were looking for an apartment, you always came across a lot of Syrians,” he says.
“Of course they have to leave,” adds Atilla Celtik, who hasn’t left his deserted town either. “Soon, they will claim our land”, he predicts, “we are worried”.
Hatay province, some districts of which are very liberal, gave Kemal Kiliçdaroglu a slight advantage in the first round.
A possible success of the opposition candidate will depend in part on the number of survivors who, settled far from the disaster area, will make the trip to come and vote a second time on Sunday.
Promise to rebuild
Nearly 1.7 million displaced persons have retained their registration on the electoral rolls of the affected provinces.
For Sema Sicek, whose anger against Recep Tayyip Erdogan remained as strong as when thousands of people were slowly dying under the rubble, without help, they absolutely must return.
“Walk if necessary but do not abandon your land”, says this 65-year-old man who accuses President Erdogan of “burying us alive”.
Some of that anger spilled over to social media, where people in quake-affected areas were blamed for supporting Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The incumbent has convinced voters in the affected regions by promising them new homes for the start of next year – “maybe a little later” for those in Antakya.
Kemal Kiliçdaroglu tried to do the same on Tuesday, saying “no one should doubt” his ability to rebuild the region.
Hakan Tiryaki, the provincial leader of his party, the CHP, refutes accusations that the opposition was not sufficiently heard in the region before the first round. Campaigning vigorously could have given the impression that the opposition was trying to take advantage of people’s grief, he said.
And that wouldn’t have been enough to change Omer Edip Aslantas’ mind: a former left-wing sympathizer, the 50-year-old believes that “the Turkish left is no longer the same”. “She has become anti-Turkish, anti-Muslim.”