AKP voters in Istanbul’s Bağcılar: ‘Enough is enough’

Gazete Duvar has conducted street interviews in Istanbul’s Bağcılar district where the support for President Erdoğan and his AKP is very high. Regardless of their parties, the primary concern of the voters is the economy and rising cost of living.

Pigeons fly in front of a large poster of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Bursa in 2019 (Reuters)

Ümit Buget / Gazete Duvar

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are preparing for the toughest challenge in their political life as the May 14 elections approach. 

The inflation was 15.39% in the last general election in June 2018 in Turkey, while it peaked at 85.51% in October 2022 according to the state-run Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK). However, this figure was 185.34% according to the independent inflation group ENAG.

That’s why the primary concern of the voters living in Istanbul’s Bağcılar district is the economy and rising cost of living regardless of their parties. In the previous elections the support for President Erdoğan and his AKP was very high in Bağcılar.

People say that no matter how much the pensions and minimum wages increase, they cannot keep up with the increase in the market and rent prices. 

Sitting in one of the traditional coffeehouses, a Kurdish voter who did not disclose his party expressed that “I have eight kids at home, one lira in my pocket.” He said that the AKP’s 21-year ruling period is enough: “It is enough even if it is good or bad.”

One problem during the street interviews was the fear of “Something will happen to me because of what I say.” One citizen refused to speak to us by saying “I support the (pro-Kurdish) Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). It's free to be anything in this country, it's forbidden to be Kurdish. Whatever we say is a crime. That's why I don't want to talk."

An elderly man said he voted for the AKP but "I will have to vote for Kılıçdaroğlu" because of the economy. He also said Nation Alliance’s presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu will win the election.

During the interviews, an elderly woman said "This government has made us very tired, very sad, let (Erdoğan) go." Hearing this conservation, another woman replied "You are absolutely right. Enough is enough. It has to change."

Another woman said "We voted a lot for Erdoğan. He used to be working very good, but he is not like he used to. I think change would be better," and added that she will vote for Kılıçdaroğlu.

In Bağcılar, women's demands for change and more freedom have drawn attention, regardless of whether they are old or young, whether they wear a headscarf or not. 

A Workers' Party of Turkey (TİP) voter said “I want a country where I can be much more comfortable and much happier. I am tired of the fights in the parliament. I want to see much younger and more dynamic people.”

On the other hand, a previous AKP voter stated that “Enough is enough.” He said he will vote for Muharrem İnce, a Republican People’s Party (CHP)-breakaway presidential candidate. 

“My father used to tell me ‘If you don't vote for the AKP, I will not forgive you.’ But now my father says the opposite,” the same voter said. If the election goes to the second round, he said he will vote for Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

Five young people aged 19-20, whose families will vote for the AKP, also said they will support Muharrem İnce.

On the other hand, some HDP voters said they will vote for Kılıçdaroğlu for the presidential candidacy: "Selahattin (Demirtaş) sent us a letter from prison. We accept his letter. The candidate that HDP will support is Kılıçdaroğlu. We will support him as Kurds until the end."

Some AKP voters are also aware of the worsening conditions, but they think that the AKP, or rather Erdoğan, is needed especially for the continuation of providing services in the earthquake zone. Some other AKP voters also expressed that they will continue to support Erdoğan "no matter what happens."

In the 2018 elections, AKP got 51.7 percent of the votes in the district, whereas Erdoğan was able to garner 61.9 percent of the votes with the help of his ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The parliamentary and presidential elections will be held together on May 14 in a historic year as 2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey.

(English version by Alperen Şen)

Turkish version of the interviews: