The Quick Read About… Turkish Local Elections

What Happened This Week:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan braces for municipal elections this Sunday. It’s the first time Turks head to the polls since Erdogan’s AK Party won parliamentary elections last June, securing him the executive presidency he established to remain in power (going on 17 years now). These are the first elections to be held since Turkey fell into recession for the first time in nearly a decade. Things do not look promising for Erdogan or his supporters.

Why It Matters:

Turkish elections always matter given the country’s geostrategic location between Europe and the Middle East. But this is the first time that Turkish local elections matter this much. Part of that has to do with the fact that Erdogan continues to frame these local elections as a referendum about his leadership. He keeps saying on the campaign trail, these elections are about “the survival of the Turkish state.” And given the raft of populist measures he’s introduced in the run-up to the vote—upping the minimum wage, offering loans at below-market rates through state banks, selling rationed amounts of fruits and vegetables, among others—he seems to genuinely believe that, even though the Turkish economy is sputtering and can’t really afford these types of government handouts. But Erdogan is desperate, as well he should be, because for years, Erdogan’s rule has coincided with the growth of the Turkish economy, which he eagerly took credit for. But now that same Turkish economy has begun to falter; in part because of the global economic slowdown, and in part because of continued interventions by Erdogan into the economy that have scared off foreign investors.

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