TURKEY: President Tayyip Erdogan arrived at the epicentre of one of the deadliest earthquakes in a car gleaming in the sunlight, while residents burned fire to stay warm in the bitter cold. He made limited interactions with public and aimed straight for the police headquarters to decide on the aftermath of the series of tremors.
More than 21,000 people are reported dead by the earthquake across Turkey and Syria. The earthquake occurred at the most politically sensitive time in Erdogan’s career as the Turkish leader has proposed initiating a crunch election on 14 May in order to keep his Islamic governance in power until 2028.
A political dimension that is deeply important for Erdogan. The earthquake that occurred at a time when he was gaining momentum helped him gather public approval.
Erdogan’s refusal to accept criticism of the state’s response has not been successful in pacifying public anger at a response following the disaster that came much later or, in the case of remote villages, has not arrived at all.
Adiyaman resident Mehmet Yildirim said, “I did not see anyone until 2:00 p.m. on the second day of the earthquake.” He added, “No government, no state, no police, no soldiers.” Shame on you! “You left us on our own.”
Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the author of a lot of books on Erdogan’s leadership commented, “Erdogan has developed an image that is both sweet and sour. He is autocratic yet effective, a patriarchal figure who has practically replaced what was formerly known as devlet baba, the fatherly state.”
“This is why his supporters adore him and his opponents dread him. His fury is as severe as his kindness. That is his entire brand, which is currently being tested,” Cagaptay concluded.
Erdogan said during a speech in the town that new homes would be constructed to replace the old ones in ten affected areas within a year. The message, however, seems to emanate from fear and desperation to gain power in the government in light of upcoming elections.
The Presidency’s eagerness to control rather than show compassion for the people is highlighted by Cagaptay as he said, “If people believe the state isn’t there when they need it, the notion that Turkey requires a successful autocratic leader comes apart.”
“Without appropriate help following the earthquake, his base will have a difficult time supporting the autocratic component of his political character,” he concluded.
Also Read: Turkey-Syria Earthquake: The Number of Fatalities Surpasses 17,000