Economic tensions have caused a decline in Erdogan’s approval ratings in recent years. While he was able to sustain strong economic growth in 2020, rising inequality, protests, and a global reversal in market liquidity left Turkey short of cash. Beginning in 2013, foreign investors began to abandon Turkish assets, and market liquidity became heavily state-controlled in emerging market economies. Despite these challenges, Erdogan and his ruling coalition could still win the presidential and congressional votes according to opinion polls.
Opposition candidate Kemal Kirikdaroglu seeks to reverse Erdogan’s unorthodox and heavy-handed economic policies, including cutting interest rates in the face of rapid inflation, which led to a permanent crackdown on civil liberties. Erdogan became prime minister in 2002 as Turkey was recovering from its worst recession since the 1970s. He brought about a decade of prosperity, with poverty and unemployment plummeting. However, inequality began to rise in 2011, and protests in 2013 caused widespread clashes, arrests, and imprisonment.
In recent years, the value of the lira has plummeted, and the Turkish government has crushed protests. Erdogan’s policy of pressuring the central bank to cut interest rates has shown cracks, and some key economic officials have left the AKP in opposition to the seizure of power. Despite this, Erdogan’s loyal followers continue to support him, citing improvements in their standard of living and a better economy than during most of the twentieth century. However, analysts warn that Turkey cannot sustain its current policies forever, and eventually, the bills will have to be paid.