Erdogan’s re-election hopes could hinge on his response to the disaster.

The devastating earthquake in Turkey poses an important test of governance for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is fighting for his political future just months before elections in May. can reshape the country.

Erdogan came to power after the government’s weak response to the 1999 earthquake that killed more than 17,000 people and the financial crisis two years later. He has dominated Turkish politics for the two decades since — but his popularity has waned recently as soaring inflation has tarnished his credibility as an administrator. competent, if controversial.

Soner Cagaptay, head of Turkey studies at the Washington Institute, a think-tank, said the quake “could really destroy Mr. forceful, authoritarian but effective”. “We have to wait and see – it could play out depending on the response to the disaster.”

Mr. Erdogan, 68, faces an incredible task in the wake of Monday’s earthquake, one of the deadliest and most devastating natural disasters of this century. Damage could be up to 1 billion dollars, according to one estimate by the United States Geological Survey. Thousands of people have died and the number is growing.

He also faces a political challenge: Recent polls suggest that no one will win outright in the first round of presidential voting, and either potential opposition candidate could. defeated Mr. Erdogan in the vote, by survey margin from single digits to more than 20 percentage points.

Turkey’s opponents and Western officials have accused Mr. Erdogan of pushing the country towards autocracy, largely because the sweeping power he bestowed upon himself since a narrow majority of voters passed a referendum in 2017 expanding the role of the president.

On Tuesday, he declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 quake-affected provinces, allowing restrictions on liberties that could include curfews, travel bans and assignment of arrests. compulsory for civil servants.

The move immediately raised concerns, considering the steps Mr. Erdogan took in 2016 following a failed coup attempt against him. State of emergency nationwide was originally supposed to last three months but has been extended for a total of two years. During that time, more than 100,000 people were detained and 150,000 civil servants were fired from their jobs.

Still, analysts called Tuesday’s announcement an understandable move given the magnitude of the quake’s devastation. The three-month period will end shortly before the May 14 vote.

The opposition has so far refrained from criticizing the response to the quake, with all political parties on Tuesday issuing a rare joint statement of solidarity in the face of the crisis. earthquake.


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