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    Why does the popularity of rightist Erdoğan go down while that of leftist Lula goes up?

    Güven Sak, PhD02 April 2009 - Okunma Sayısı: 1331


    It seems that the situation is genuinely bad. Moreover, things are not getting any better for the last five months. While rules are doing nothing bur wasting time for election campaigns, it seems that we citizens are encountering worse conditions day by day. Turkish Statistical Institute (TURKSTAT) made an announcement this week and that the Turkish economy contracted in the last quarter of 2008 was officially confirmed. Figures announced by TURKSTAT say that the Turkish economy grew only by 1.1 percent. If the figures were not revised, overall growth rate for 2008 would have been 0 as the economy contracted by 6.2 percent in the last quarter of 2008. Thanks to the positive revisions made in previous quarters, growth rate did not stand at 0 but jumped up to 1.1 percent. But, does it make any difference? No, it does not. 2009 is a contractionary year for the Turkish economy and will remain so. When making calculations on the 2011 elections, it will be wise to keep this fact in mind. A contracting economy poses the risk of shrinking vote base for the ruling party. So, under these circumstances and as the global crisis will continue, does not the Development and Justice Party (AKP) have any chance? No, it has. It is not personally the crisis but the crisis management ability of the government that leads to loss of votes. Brazilian experience exactly underlines this. If you wonder what we mean, please keep reading.

    In the 2009 elections, AKP has lost around 20 percent of votes. What does this mean? This means that out of each five voters that voted for AKP in 2007, one changed preferences in 2009. 2008 growth performance announced by TURKSTAT is important for explaining the change in the preferences of voters.  Did the mentioned change happened as the crisis demonstrated all its impacts and ended? No, it did not. So, let us state the first point: The figures announced today signalize the first phase where the global crisis became to be the crisis of Turkey. At the last quarter of 2008, a brand new crisis operation mode of which does not resemble that in America was born in Turkey. This is the reality, whether or not you are content with it. This is the first impact that evaporated the votes for the AKP.

    And the second point: A short while ago, we quoted from an opinion leader friend. Out friend speaking with some bureaucrats could not help himself and said "I am currently living what the figures will tell you two months from now. Take my words seriously." Last quarter of 2008 involves October 2008- December 2008 period. Figures announced by TURKSTAT two days ago pertain to a period beginning six months ago. Now, it will be wise to adapt out quotation as follows: Rulers will acknowledge what we are going through the figures with a six months delay. Saying "it seems that things have been really bad" with a six-month delay is not good; it is bad. Why is it bad? It is bad because though it was possible to limit the damage by implementing measures, we failed to do so. This is the second point.

    Let us touch upon the third point: Turkey is currently under the impact of a global hurricane. The Turkish economy will inevitably contract along with the terror of this storm. But, are national governments unable to do anything? No, they are not. It is possible to limit the rate of economic contraction. It is possible to limit the damage. This is what the study recently published by TEPAV shows us. World experience is following this exact path. The damage can be limited by taking targeted steps rather than redundant and irregular ones and by acting in a coordinated manner. And this is what Turkey lacks. Turkish economy contracts faster than other economies as it fails to manage the crisis and acts as if there exists no crisis.

    The conclusion drawn here is that the political powers that does not take necessary measures and manage the crisis while the economy is contracting will go through quite bad times in a couple of the years ahead. Each economic contraction does not necessarily contract vote base. In particular the global nature of this crisis validates this hypothesis. Nonetheless, it the economy contracts because of bad management, the vote base strictly evaporates. With this respect, election results are full of significant lessons. But, we have not yet moved forward. We keep on saying "This issue is economic!" That AKP lost more votes in the industrial centers of Anatolia than in old industrial centers is also a development that involves highly significant economic outcomes. And this is the fourth point to touch upon

    The fifth point poses a question: Why do you think Brazil was more successful than Turkey in the last quarter of 2008? In Brazil, the economy grew by 1.2 percent and 5.1 percent in the last quarter of 2008 and throughout 2008, respectively. Yes, it is right; Brazilian economy does not contract but grows. In our consideration, the conclusion is obvious: Leftist Lula is more successful than rightist Erdoğan in economic management. And due to this exact reason, the popularity of Lula in front of voters is high despite the crisis. The surveys reveal that 80 percent of the public supports Lula in the second year of the second half of his term in the office. Does the crisis that affects Turkey does not affect Brazil? Why the popularity of Mr. Erdoğan goes down while that of Lula goes up? This is the fifth point and the question of the day.

    It is not the crisis but bad management that contracts vote base. But the conclusion does not change: this issue is economic.


    This commentary was published in Referans daily on 02.04.2009