The Financial Times published a report by its correspondents Adam Samson and Laura Bittle from Ankara, entitled: “Recep Tayyip Erdogan: The Turkish president faces disaster”.
The report notes that while Türkiye celebrated last year the anniversary of the earthquake that devastated parts of the country in 1999, Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised his government’s urban transformation projects that would protect people from future disasters.
The Turkish president said at the time: “As human beings, we cannot prevent disasters; however, we can take measures against its devastating effects”.
The report says that Erdogan is now facing criticism that his government was too slow to help the affected areas and that Türkiye wasn’t prepared for the worst natural disaster in nearly a century.
This comes during the most difficult campaign for the Turkish president to be re-elected so far in the elections scheduled for May 14.
“This will be the main issue in the elections… They’re terrible developments for Erdogan” Berk Esen, an assistant professor of political science at Istanbul’s Sabancı University said.
Erdogan founded the Justice and Development Party in 2001 and won an overwhelming majority in the 2002 elections, as voters criticized the mismanagement of the economy at the time and the mishandling of the Izmit earthquake.
“The 1999 earthquake was one of the reasons why the ruling parties not only lost, but were wiped off the political map,” Atilla Yeshilada, an analyst at Global Source Partners, told the Financial Times.
With that, Erdogan, “known for his strong rhetoric and skills in getting things done,” became prime minister in 2003.
The report indicates that Erdogan accomplished a huge transformation in the national infrastructure, and the pace of that increased after the global financial crisis, and Turkish prosperity increased, and new hospitals, bridges, highways, and airports appeared.
However, the AKP also built a network of commercial and political relations, which awarded lucrative public bids to friends in exchange for turning media into propaganda apparatus or transferring money to institutions linked to the Erdogan family.
The report notes that in 2013, a turning point occurred when protests against a plan to build a shopping mall in Istanbul’s Gezi Park turned into a broader movement.
Erdogan launched a violent crackdown and began curtailing civil liberties and curtailing freedom of the press.
“The Gezi incident opened the eyes and showed the quality of this man,” Yeshilada says.
Analysts told the Financial Times newspaper that the coup attempt in 2016 reinforced his shift towards a more authoritarian ruler.
Since then, Erdogan has tightened his grip on almost all government institutions.
Political analysts say that waves of purges in the civil service, and the preference for loyalty to Erdogan over professional knowledge, have further eroded the country’s institutions.
The repercussions of this have emerged as the country suffers from one of the worst natural disasters ever.
“The results of the earthquake are the consequences of emptying Türkiye’s institutions and disrespecting and ignoring expertise,” Süley Ozel, a lecturer at Kadir Has University, told the Financial Times.
The report notes that the Turkish president “has often taken advantage of past crises and turned them to his advantage… however, some political observers say the current earthquake-related crisis may be completely out of Erdogan’s control.