Erdogan is facing the biggest challenge before the elections on dealing with the earthquake consequences


The earthquake, which killed the deadliest in Türkiye in a generation, has prompted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to face a massive rescue and reconstruction challenge, overshadowing what was already the toughest run-up to May elections during the two decades of his reign.

A day after the earthquake that killed more than 3,500 people in Türkiye, opposition parties and some residents in the hardest-hit areas complained that the authorities were slow or unprepared with the necessary equipment to deal with the devastation.

Any perception that the government is unable to properly handle this disaster, or that it has not implemented proper building codes in an earthquake-prone country, would be detrimental to Erdogan’s election bid.

But analysts say the president can build national support for his handling of the crisis and cement his position as a skilled campaigner and because his government has dealt with earthquakes, wildfires and other natural disasters since taking office in 2003.

Speaking just hours after the earthquake, which he described as the worst to hit Türkiye in more than 80 years, Erdogan said the authorities had already mobilized thousands of rescue workers who would spare no effort despite the harsh winter conditions.

The Turkish government declared a level 4 alert, called for international aid, and declared a three-month state of emergency in the hardest-hit areas.

The Eurasia Consulting Group said, “Erdogan dealt quickly and steadily with the crisis… It’s likely to lead to polishing his image as a strong leader before the May 14 elections if the government can continue its effective efforts that it started early”.

Reconstruction costs are likely to run into several billion dollars, straining an economy already suffering from 58% inflation.

Economists say the turmoil in the region of 13 million people is expected to curb growth this year.

Erdogan’s political opponents didn’t rush to make political gains in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, when many are still trapped under the rubble and the death toll is rising.

A political bloc comprising six opposition parties contented itself with saying that the government should deal without discrimination with the catastrophe that struck areas, including gatherings of Kurds and Syrian refugees.

The Turkish authorities say more than 12,000 search and rescue personnel and 9,000 other soldiers are involved in the operations.

Erdogan’s government’s handling of this natural disaster may shape the position of the undecided voter, but the loyalties of most voters are already defined.

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