Turks Fret About Economy as AK Party Strength Turns to Weakness

Almost half of Turkish voters say the economy is deteriorating, up from 30 percent a year ago, according to a survey by the Open Society Foundation, Turkey’s Koc University and Ohio State University.

The sagging confidence in the ruling AK Party’s economic management ahead of June elections contrasts with a “marked” rise in the number of voters who think Turkey’s opposition could do a better job, the survey found, without giving figures. Unemployment and corruption top the list of voters’ concerns, it said.

The AK Party has built its support on the back of a decade of economic growth that’s averaged about 5 percent a year since it came to power in 2002. Critics point out that much of the expansion occurred during the first five years of the AK Party’s rule yet voters have backed it in successive elections.

Unemployment rose in January to 11.3 percent, the highest level in five years. The economy grew 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged voters to give the AK Party a mandate to rewrite the constitution to grant him more powers. He has promised that replacing Turkey’s parliamentary system with a presidential one would give the country an economic boost.

The Open Society Foundation study found that only 27 percent of Turks are in favor of such a change in the political system, while the figure is 43 percent among AK Party supporters.

A similar divide along party lines exists in issues, according to Ali Carkoglu, who led the team that conducted the poll between March 19-April 26 by interviewing 2,201 randomly selected people from 49 provinces in Turkey.

Three-fourths of voters who support opposition parties say there are limitations on freedom of expression whereas the figure is 28 percent for AK Party supporters. The share of people who see those freedoms curbed rose from 44 percent of the population in 2011 to 56 percent now.

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