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The economic downturn sends Erdogan support over a long period of time


Hediye Bas blames dams, highways and tunnels across the Ikizdere valley in northeastern Turkey for choking on water and hiding its crops. Now working on gemstones that are being repaired is showing signs of breakage and wasting his support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Bas and other residents of Erdogan’s parents’ hometown of Rize are trying to stop a 20-ton rock excavation on the new 40km Black Sea coast.

Dynamite has already smashed fragments of the mountain onto the sidewalk, slightly diverting the river where the Bas’ family fishes for gemstones. In order for the gemstones to be mined, 1m trees will be cut down and the explosions will turn into piles of leaves nearby, while various species in the protected area will be destroyed, the environmental group has warned.

Erdogan “probably thinks we can support whatever he does here because he wins almost all of our votes. But I will not nominate him again,” said Basd. “No one gets a job in this job, they just take away the valley we rely on to make money.”

The protests, which are not present in one of the President’s constituencies, show a great deal of dissatisfaction with his economic management, which is being investigated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) across the country. Inflation has stabilized in two groups over the past four years and unemployment is about 14%.

The $ 200m port is part of the $ 325bn share operating costs developed in Turkey over the next decade. Erdogan has placed his financial hopes on the construction project, including a $ 15bn delivery channel that supplies half of Istanbul island. At the ceremony last month, Erdogan said the project laid the foundation for “the task of building a bigger and stronger Turkey”.

Bas is not particularly affected by these big ambitions and is very concerned about the cost of selling and keeping his job in the automotive industry after a coronavirus outbreak. He also said he was fired as a union representative after joining the protests. “It’s very expensive here. When you go to the grocery store, there is nothing you can buy for less money, ”he said.

Persistent construction work has caused quite a stir, with critics claiming that fewer companies are the main source of employment, financial and environmental oppression. In Rize, he points to two ports that are already below capacity within 70km of the project.

Turkish resident Hediye Bas says Rize residents have complained that they did not oppose the original construction projects in the area © Ayla Jean Yackley / FT

“It is difficult for the government to justify the price of megap cars for people when housing costs are low and people are worried about their jobs and kitchen costs,” said Can Selcuki, chief of the Turkish Voting Commission.

Various studies have shown support for the AKP in past entertainment. A study conducted in June by Turkey Raporu found that it had dropped to 26%. The next general election in Turkey is set for 2023, but about 60% of those surveyed voted for the election. A May poll by Erdogan – a well-known Turkish politician – backs three opposition candidates. The “necessary alliance” that led to their collapse was the economic crisis, says Selcuki.

Erdogan has ruled Turkish politics for 20 years, tripling the GDP that lifted millions out of poverty. But his strong integration in recent years has been accompanied by political instability, combined with 2016’s efforts, foreign policy points that have led him to clash with his Western allies and unacceptable financial policies which hindered foreign investors from hitting the national currency.

Turkey map

In Rize, he remains brave. Welcome to Erdogan, reading a sign on the way to the provincial capital, also known as Rize, and to Recep Tayyip Erdogan University. Big pictures of the president beautify the house in the city of 150,000, where he won 79 votes in the 2018 elections.

But even now critics came out. Mehmet Ali Sancaktutan, who left the AKP two years ago, said neighbors warned him to leave his home in nearby Guneysu – where Erdogan was a part of his childhood – after he was arrested by police for complaining about the President’s use of YouTube media in June.

“I believed that our president, the son of Rize, would save us, but he has lost our troubles,” Sancaktutan said. “People are miserable, they are worried about food, but we only hear about construction.”

Saltuk Deniz, chairman of the opposition Republican People’s Party, said his party had tripled in the last election.

Rural villagers in Rize continue to be vigilant with demonstrations at the proposed 20m tonic rock excavated on the Black Sea coast
Rural residents in Rize continue to be vigilant against the proposed rocks that will excavate 20m tons of rock at the Black Sea © Ayla Jean Yackley / FT

“People are gathering together in Rize, but we are seeing this partnership grow as the economic crisis of the people grows,” he said.

In Ikizdere, about 50 people have protested against the stoppage and have entered a three-month vigil at an abandoned factory full of Turkish flags. Many other people left the protests after Adil Karaismailoglu, the transport minister, said the port would bring jobs to the area and criticized “weak and foreign groups” for promoting the conflict.

Meanwhile, Bas tea planters planted several years have failed to grow, and are concerned that nearby dams are exacerbating climate change. Production of local “crazy honey” – from bees that feed on rhododendrons with soft drinks – has declined sharply, with rapid development in the Black Sea region being blamed for landslides and floods.

“We have not said anything about the construction of the dams and highway, but we are sorry now,” Bas said. “Nature always retaliates.”


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