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Elections: Voters in the earthquake area – Erdogan, risen from the ruins?

Elections: Voters in the earthquake area – Erdogan, risen from the ruins?
Elections: Voters in the earthquake area – Erdogan, risen from the ruins?

Three months ago, devastating earthquakes shook southeast Turkey. The disaster could bring down President Erdogan, it said. A few days before the election, this proves to be a fallacy.

One might think that Esra Yilmaz* has many reasons to be angry. But since the February 6 earthquakes took away her sister, her apartment and her old life, the Turkish woman has been practicing modesty. She is grateful that her children are safe. There is no sign of anger at the government in the three-room apartment she shares with 14 other people on the outskirts of the devastated city of Antakya. Your vote belongs to Erdogan, says Yilmaz.

Yilmaz is an example of voting behavior that raises question marks among many observers. When a storm of criticism swept over the government under Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the earthquake, many saw the end of it as coming. But a few days before the parliamentary and presidential elections, according to surveys, there was hardly a trace of this.

In April, after temporary losses, the approval of the alliance around Erdogan and his AKP was back to the values ​​before the earthquake catastrophe, as a compilation of several surveys by the Türkiye Raporu institute shows. The same applies to the opposition alliance around challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

Media is under government control

“This shows how polarized society is and how powerful the Erdogan government’s propaganda machine is,” says Salim Cevik of the Foundation for Science and Politics. Media in Turkey are mostly under the direct or indirect control of the government.

In fact, such a development is not untypical in Turkey. Even in past crises, the President could count on people being more likely to gather behind him. In addition, many Erdogan supporters have the president to thank for their personal economic advancement.

His re-election is not secured – on the contrary, according to polls, Erdogan is not the favorite for the first time in the race. And of course there is the loud anger at the government in the earthquake region. On the streets of the cities of Hatay province, you meet people on every corner who have been waiting for help for days, who have had to help themselves because the army or the Turkish emergency services have not arrived.

No help arrived

Mahir Cebburoglu is a district leader in Samandag. He drives around on his scooter in search of voters to give them their ballot papers. Does it still exist? Are you still in Samandag? Cebburoglu doesn’t know. 350 people have been killed in his district alone. No help came to Samandag from the government, says the man who is running for the strongest opposition party, the CHP, in this election. If it were up to him, the election would have had to be postponed. He’s not the only one who thinks so.

More than 9,000 ballot boxes will be set up in containers or schools in the eleven provinces hit by the earthquake. According to official figures, 50,000 people have died, other estimates assume at least 300,000. According to government information, almost a quarter of the population has left the region, and very few have registered in other places. How and if they cast their vote is uncertain – also for whom.

A group of construction workers sit in the shade of a ruin for lunch. They came from Gaziantep to Samandag, which was badly damaged, and are helping with the demolition work. “If Erdogan is not re-elected, then nothing will happen here for a year,” says one.

Erdogan, gifted rhetorician, is a master at giving reality an interpretative framework that is useful to him. He calls the earthquake a “millennium catastrophe” for which no country in the world could have been prepared. A few weeks after February 6, he talks almost exclusively about reconstruction.

Nepotism in the construction industry

The government has reportedly subcontracted orders in the region to related companies. Nepotism prevails in the Turkish construction industry in particular, on which economic growth was based, which brought Erdogan euphoric national and international approval in his early years.

Sefa Ekmekci from the AKP’s election coordination center in Kahramanmaras is certain that Erdogan has mastered the crisis: “After our president laid the cornerstone for new buildings in Kahramanmaras on March 23, reconstruction is progressing quickly. Four-story buildings have already been completed in many places .”

The fact that many streets are still in ruins and that people still do not have enough to eat three months after the earthquake is not mentioned in this story. 19-year-old Mustafa Deviren experiences this every day. He lives with his family in a tent in Pazarcik, the center of the first earthquake. Here they wait in vain for containers and the help they need. He is sure that he will not give his vote to Erdogan.

For Yilmaz, nothing has changed in political reality as a result of the earthquake. She sees the responsibility for the many collapsed buildings with engineers and builders, not with Erdogan and the authorities. “I have always given my vote to the AKP, and I will do the same this time.”

Source: Stern

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