Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has unveiled his party’s manifesto ahead of next month’s parliamentary and presidential polls, where he is facing his toughest election test yet. Thousands of supporters gathered at a sports arena in the capital, Ankara, to hear Erdogan play up Turkey’s might and condemn “global imperialists”. Tens of thousands more rallied outside in a show of his enduring strength. Erdogan is confronting public anger over a raging economic crisis and the government’s delayed response to a February earthquake in which more than 50,000 died. Polls show him running neck-and-neck or losing to secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu. The AKP’s future control of parliament also appears in grave doubt.
Erdogan sounded unfazed as he delivered a blistering performance, referring repeatedly to a failed but bloody 2016 coup attempt and casting his rivals as pawns of foreign governments meddling in Turkey’s affairs. Erdogan also openly embraced his party’s socially conservative traditions and appealed to the wider Muslim world. Polls show Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu heading to a runoff on May 28.
May 14 will definitively determine whether Erdogan and the AKP are able to keep control of parliament through an alliance with a far-right group. Erdogan stripped the legislature of much of its powers in the second decade of his rule. The opposition wants to reverse the process by regaining control of parliament and then giving ministries and other institutions more freedom to act on their own. Either side’s success will be partially determined by whom voters trust more to pull Turkey’s once-booming economy out of its most dire crisis during Erdogan’s entire rule.
Turkey’s inflation rate touched 85% last year, and the lira lost nearly half its value due to Erdogan’s unbending desire to achieve growth through ultra-low interest rates. Erdogan dubbed it the “new economic model” — an experiment that few other nations have attempted but which the Turkish government has refused to give up. The AKP programme hints at a possible policy reversal but offers few concrete details. Some analysts saw this as an opening for a potential return to the government of economists with more traditional views. Current members of Erdogan’s government have ruled out hiking interest rates after the election to levels that analysts believe can help restore trust in Turkey’s economic path.
The manifesto repeated an old pledge to bring down inflation “to single digits” while maintaining annual growth rates of 5.5% of gross domestic product. “Hard to understand how these numbers add up,” BlueBay Asset Management economist Timothy Ash remarked in an emailed comment.
In other news, Saudi and Omani delegations reached the Yemeni capital Sanaa to hold talks with the head of Yemen’s Houthi Supreme Political Council, Houthi-run news agency Saba said on Sunday. Quoting a source in the Houthi presidential council, Saba said the delegations and Mahdi al-Mashat would discuss “lifting the siege with all its repercussions”, an end to aggression, and the restoration of the Yemeni people’s rights, including paying the salaries of all state employees from oil and gas revenue.