Turkey is locked into a single issue and it is not the new wave of Turkey bound refugees from Idlib. It is the mega Canal İstanbul project. However, public does not have adequate knowledge of the project according to a recent poll.
December 27 2019
Turkey is locked into a single issue and it is not the new wave of Turkey bound refugees from Idlib. It is the mega Canal İstanbul project. It appears, from night shows on TV and the ferocious statements by politicians, that there is a debate in the country. In fact, there is a debate but one over political divisions and identities and not one over facts. This is a project that will have consequences from a military, environment and economic perspective that are long lasting and irreversible. A technical and convincing debate must take place.
Prior to 1994 municipal elections, a similar project was advocated by the late Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit. Now, main opposition CHP ,the ideological sister of Bülent Ecevit’s DSP, opposes the project at all costs. In 1994, then the mayoral candidate Erdoğan opposed the idea strongly. Since 2011, he is the champion of the project. In 2011, then in opposition MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli trashed the project and now, as part of the ruling alliance, he trashes the ones who are opposing it. The supporters of each political party follow suit. Once again, the issue is highly polarized on political divides.
The fact of the matter is public does not have adequate knowledge of the project. Indeed, it is not just digging a canal that connects the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea a second time. Among other things a “smart city” of 500K inhabitant is planned to be built along the Canal. In a nation wide survey we conducted at TurkiyeRaporu.com during the first week of December, it turned out that the knowledge on project is staggeringly low. About 49% of the participants indicated that they have no information on the project whereas 40% said they were “somewhat informed” about the project. Only 11,3% claimed that they were “well informed”.
There is a draw when it comes to support for the project. 42% of the population oppose and the same share support the project, whereas 14% remains undecided. 49% of the population does not agree with the statement that the project will bring new sources of revenue whereas 35% agree. This is worth noting, as the economic argument is one of the pillars of Government’s case for the project.
In addition to civil society, this week Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu put forward 15 technical reasons why the project should not be implemented. He will need to back these with more data, but the ball is in Government’s court to convince the public why, if in fact, he is wrong.
This debate has to rid itself of politics immediately. A plebiscite of citizens living Istanbul is not the solution. The preference of Istanbul folk will not change the technical realities of the project. The Government seems resolute on undertaking the project at all cost. However, the way this debate is going, it could turn out to be an existential one. A debate, indeed, to end all debates.
Who is Can Selçuki?
Can Selçuki holds a MSc degree in Economics from University Bocconi. Before co-founding Istanbul Economy, a public opinion and big data firm, Can worked as an economist at the World Bank Ankara Office working both with the public and private partners in private sector development. His work at the World Bank focused on regional development, competition and innovation policies. Prior to working at the World Bank, Can worked as an economics researcher at the Brussels based think tank the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) for three years. He is the author of several papers and reports on trade competitiveness, regional development and innovation policy in Turkey. He is frequent commentator on Turkey and the region in print and visual media such as BBC World and FT and regularly writes on Turkish economy and politics in Turkish and international print such as Foreign Policy.
President Erdoğan is no where he used to be 10 years ago, but he still maintains a comfortable lead over his rivals. In a May 2020 poll, we asked respondents to name the politician best suited to resolve the woes of the economy. The respondents could answer with any name. Only 39.7% of respondents chose Erdoğan.
Contrary to the official consumer confidence index, our figures tell a different story than the positive 20-point increase announced by TURKSTAT. Considering the fact that these indexes have a negative effect on the consumer confidence index these days, not taking them into account resulted in a very serious increase in the positive direction.
I think this is the perfect timing for an effective Greens Party in Turkey. It would be the ultimate appeal for the “Generation Z”. A leader of the Green Party that will get 3-4 percent of votes in the first round of presidential election might negotiate to become the Minister of Environment in the second round of the election.
The nature of the Nation’s Alliance has changed. It no longer represents a pre-election alliance formed by CHP, İYİ Party and Felicity Party like it did prior to the elections in 2018. Instead, it represents a political block against the People’s Alliance that can reach consensus on a common denominator.
Who is pleased with the presidential system in Turkey today? 61 percent of society prefers the parliamentary system as a form of governance. The change in the government system will serve as one of the opposition’s main issues in its communication as we approach the next election.
While they are no new demographic, the restless conservatives are getting stronger amongst the ruling People's Alliance electorate and the AKP base in particular. The Erdoğan and AKP that they had supported so buoyantly for the past decade are no longer the same.
42 percent of Turkish people believe the economy will be stronger next year. What is more, those who couldn’t even pay the minimum amount of their credit card bills last month, 58 percent believed that the economic situation would improve next year. Unfortunately, there is a misguided feeling of optimism around.
There are two reasons why many jobs will not come back. First, some businesses will not reopen in the wake of this calamity. Second, consumer demand is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic times for a while.
In the latest surveys more than 50% of the participants stated that, even once the pandemic is over, they will go to the shopping mall less than they did prior to the pandemic. Statistics from China demonstrate similar consumer trends. It will take some time for consumer habits to get back to normal.
Upon asking whether or not Turkey should borrow from the IMF in order to alleviate the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis, only 30.8% of participants agreed, while the remaining 69.2% disagreed. The fact remains that the IMF is still negatively connoted amongst Turkish people.
As conditions worsen for the households, prospects get darker. It appears that the first wave of the health crisis will be over soon. Brace yourself for the economic downturn that it will leave its wake. That is of course until the pandemic’s second wave.
Some 50 percent of Turkish people disagree with President Erdoğan's donation campaign and believe that the government should be supporting the people and not the other way around. Some 41 percent disagree with the government's move to freeze CHP-led municipalities' donation campaigns while only 35 percent support the decision.
In the early days of March, our polling results suggested that 46% of the population in Turkey would not get vaccinated if a vaccine was developed against COVID-19. Luckily, this indifference to the virus has evolved for the better between March and now. As we enter the most critical two weeks of the pandemic in Turkey, the numbers with respect to self-isolation and precautions offer more hope.
The move by the government to freeze the donation accounts of municipalities will not benefit anyone.It is not the public that is getting polarized, it is the politics. And those who polarize will lose this race.
Like all governments around the world, the Turkish government has a number of tough calls to make during this time of public health turned economic crisis. So far, the Turkish government seems to have opted to keep up economic activity as long as it can, before it imposes a total lockdown.
Only one in two people in Turkey are worried about Coronavirus, while close to 20 percent stated that they were “neither worried nor unworried”. More strikingly, despite the warnings only 48 percent do not shake hands while only 49 percent do not kiss when seeing someone.
Amid growing tensions between Turkey and Russia on the Syrian battlefront, we asked respondents to rate the countries and international organizations based on how much they trust them. The bottom line of this story is that Turkish society has lost faith in its allies and neighbors.
The Turkish public is focused on Idlib. Naturally so. The rising number of martyrs and the difficulty to see an definitive end in sight to conflict worries many people. The risk of losing Turkish soldiers is the chief concern by 47.1% among Turkish public. If the heavy Turkish casualties continue to rise, the government might risk losing domestic support.
While one usually knows what people like about their preferred political parties, one tends to be less aware of what voters dislike about their parties. An investigation into this by TurkiyeRaporu.com showed that Turkey's two largest parties also have the most disgruntled base.
In a country that has more than 50 million registered voters, a single vote does not carry much influence. Yet voter turnout in Turkish elections remains over 80%. So why do Turkish people vote? In fact, fulfilling one's duties as a citizen matters more than having an impact on the election results.
Even though the majority of the society did not conduct an earthquake test, 66.4% of society believes that their home is earthquake resistant. In fact, 43.7% of attendants stated that they believe their homes are earthquake resistant even though they never conducted an earthquake test. Statistics demonstrate that Turkey is not prepared for earthquakes at both an infrastructure and individual level.
Following a significant earthquake and amid a turbulent political conjuncture, Turkey's citizens are worried. Yet rather than politics or economics, people are mostly concerned about their individual security and that of their families.
Speculation regarding the potential of new parties are abound. According to our September 2019 polling across Turkey, the potential for the new parties that would be established by former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu and former economy chief Ali Babacan stood a little over 17% combined. This number in line with the 15-20% of the electorate who are looking for something new. We will have to wait and see whether the new parties will be able to realize this potential.
A nation-wide poll, conducted during the first week of January, showed that 58% of the population is against sending troops to Libya. A breakdown of the result according to party supporters is telling. The AKP base itself is opposed to it and a divergence prevails between the AKP and the MHP bases.
Turkey is now sending military support for the Government of National Accord (GNA) to aid in its fight against General Hafter. The potential benefit of this decision is too distanced from the public life. Particularly, if the mission turns into an operational one, it will be very difficult to explain to the public why we are indeed in Libya.
Finally, last week, former Prime Minister and chief of foreign policy, Ahmet Davutoğlu’s much anticipated Future Party was inaugurated. Analysts are rushing to deem his party’s chances slim. I see that there is a fundamental flaw in that analysis.
For a long time now, all our polling points to two main sources of dissatisfaction among the public. First is the economy. Second is the Syrian refugees and the Syria policy. Both are policy areas where Mr. Babacan and Mr. Davutoğlu were responsible for at the highest level of public office. It would have been much easier and strategically correct for President Erdoğan to link today’s woes to the wrong doings of the two during when they were in office.
Most recently, an event transpired likely to be seen in scenarios of an absurd comedy piece. With the “pro” votes of MHP and AK Party MPs, the bill postponing the requirement for filtration in thermal power plants, was approved in the parliament. The decision caused an uproar in the opposition ranks but also in a large section of society. Then, something quite unexpected happened; President Erdoğan vetoed the bill. The irony is of course, that the very same law that was tabled by Mr. Erdoğan’s AK Party was vetoed by President Mr. Erdoğan himself.
Last Tuesday, former Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Ali Babacan for the first time appeared on national television as an opposition politician. Mr. Babacan did not object when the host of the talk show host suggested he appears as more of a “political organizer” than a “political leader”. It shows that his movement is not organized in the typical political hierarchy that voters are used to see.
A couple of months ago, when three HDP mayors were removed from office, I had predicted that this increased the chances of early elections in the fall of 2020. Looking at the economic sentiment of the house hold, it is safe to say chances for an early elections has slimmed since. Because, right now economy is the number one priority of the Turkish electorate and they are not happy.
According to a latest poll, President Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AK Party) appears to have lost 1.2 points of support whereas Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) increased its support by 3.1 points after Turkey's "Operation Peace Spring" in northern Syria.
In Turkey and across the world, the voting behavior of the young is changing. Turkey hosts close to 5 million citizens comprised between the ages of 14 and 17. By 2023, this entire group will vote, constituting close to 10% of the entire electorate.
Day-to-day events and inconsistent messages that have been coming from Turkey's traditional Western partners over the past decade have fostered negative sentiments. Yet the majority of the Turkish public values a long-term partnership with the West.
Şenay Aydemir writes: It seems like Netflix, rather than providing resources to Turkey and contributing to the advancement of the sector, chooses to work with producers that already have a strong share in the market. Though the Netflix Turkey team claims they are open to all kinds of projects and ideas, they are obviously more open to certain ideas, projects and production companies.
Ankara's conflict-oriented foreign policy has received the public's support for military operations, but public opinion often fails to translate into votes. While Ankara's "enemy" in military conflict is ever-changing, the northern Syria conflict was revealed to be the only intervention that expanded the government's voter base.
Turkey's southernmost province of Hatay was rocked by an explosion on Oct. 26 and authorities said that two militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) were nabbed following the blast. Hatay Governor Rahmi Doğan said that the two militants were a part of a group of four who had flown from the Syrian town of Manbij to the Amanos Mountains in Hatay using paramotors.
A report prepared by a number of civil society organizations regarding trials in Turkey prosecuting conscientious objectors to mandatory military service in the country has influenced the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers to pressure Turkey on recognizing the right to conscientious objection.
President Erdoğan and the newly-elected Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar on Oct. 26 voiced their support for a two-state solution on the divided island of Cyprus. "We believe a two-state solution must now be brought to the table with a realistic proposal," Erdoğan said. Erdoğan also said that he would visit Turkish Cyprus on Nov. 15 and expressed his desire to have a picnic at Varosha.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that at least 78 Turkey-backed Syrian rebels were killed and dozens more were injured in Russian airstrikes on a military training camp in Idlib. Those targeted were in a camp belonging to Faylaq al-Sham, the monitor said, adding that it was the deadliest attack since the ceasefire came into force in March.
The second indictment against human rights defender and businessman Osman Kavala presents no new grounds to justify his detention and is politically motivated, said Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in a statement.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has urged the UNESCO to release its report on the restoration works in the iconic Hagia Sophia as soon as possible. Lavrov said that for Russia Hagia Sophia is particularly valuable from the spiritual point of view.
Twenty-eight of Istanbul's 39 districts have registered more than 50 percent increase in COVID-19 infections in the past week compared to the average of this month, said Health Minister Fahrettin Koca. “The increase rate is 50-60 percent in 11 districts, 60-70 percent in 10 districts, and 70-80 percent in seven districts,” he told reporters on Oct. 26.
A Canadian vehicle manufacturer has suspended the delivery of aircraft engines to Turkey in the wake of reports that some of those engines are being used on Turkish combat drones deployed by Azerbaijan in its conflict against Armenian forces over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Former main opposition CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu's lawyer has appealed to the Constitutional Court following two lower courts' refusal to retry him over violations of his rights to participate in politics and personal freedom.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a worker to enjoy a nice cup of tea as the latter complained of not being able to bring home bread. Erdoğan said that the worker's plea sounded like a huge exaggeration, evoking infamous French ruler Marie-Antoinette who told the people to eat cake if they can't find bread.
A dynamite blast in the construction of Turkey's first nuclear power plant damaged cars that were parked in the nearby lot, ANKA News Agency reported on Oct. 25. Locals have complained from the use of dynamite in the construction before, saying that the dust harms their crops, and the blasts have even cracked the walls of their homes.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has challenged the United States on a sanctions threat over Ankara’s support to Baku in its clashes with Armenia. "You [Americans] do not know who you are playing with. Go ahead with your sanctions," Erdoğan said. He also slammed the U.S. for not delivering promised F-35 fighter jets.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said that Baku would use Turkish F-16 jets in case of an external attack on the country. "They've been asking me about why Turkish F-16s are here. I'm tired of answering. Everyone knows that the F-16s are waiting. They came here for a drill and our Turkish brothers kept them here for moral support. They'll see those F-16s if there is an external attack on us," Aliyev said.
Mehmet Ayışığı is a well-known and well-liked figure in Istanbul's Kurtuluş neighborhood, wandering the streets and calling out to customers with his signature voice. After Ayışığı's cart was confiscated by the Şişli Municipality due to noise complaints, area residents marched together with the vendor in a gesture of solidarity against police.
Known for its lush natural beauty, the environmental integrity of the town of Şavşat is under threat due to a hydroelectric power plant, where construction is due to continue despite being previously blocked by a regional court. “The people of the area are very determined. They will definitely not allow the construction of a hydroelectric power plant,” said Tahsin Yazıcı of the Kireçli village, saying that the villagers would use their democratic rights.
Turkish law enforcement detained some 38 journalists in the first eight months of 2020, a report by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) revealed. Meanwhile, access to 53 news stories and 75 websites was blocked. Charges of insulting the president resulted in the detention of 24 people, the arrest of three and an investigation into one person.
Istanbul police violently detained around 40 members of a pro-Kurdish youth union involving pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party's (HDP) Youth Assembly, Mesopotamia Agency reported on Oct. 25. Police claimed that a banner held up by demonstrators was criminal on the grounds that it displayed a photo of İbrahim Kaypakkaya, a deceased Turkish leftist.
Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak has said that the economy is growing despite the tumbling Turkish Lira. The lira weakened to a record low on Oct. 26, hit by investor unease over the central bank's decision last week to keep its policy rate on hold and various sources of geopolitical concern. Strains in ties with the United States, a row with France, a dispute between Turkey and Greece over maritime rights and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh have all unsettled investors.
Turkish monthly inflation was almost four times greater than the official rate in September, according to a new model developed by a group of academics and researchers. According to the independent Inflation Research Group (ENAG)'s first published finding, consumer prices in September rose 3.61 percent from the previous month, compared to the official Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK)'s calculation of 0.97 percent increase.
Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez said on Oct. 22 Turkey will operate the gas field which it recently discovered in the Black Sea on its own, but it may cooperate with foreign firms in terms of detailed work and equipment. The minister's comments came after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Oct. 17 Turkey had raised the estimated reserves of the field to 405 billion cubic meters after finding an additional 85 bcm.
The Turkish government has said that it "laughs off" boycotts imposed on Turkish products in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and United Arab Emirates. "We laugh off some countries' boycotts against Turkey. They should first learn to stand as independent countries," AKP deputy leader Numan Kurtulmuş said on Oct. 18.
Turkey's southeastern city of Diyarbakır is nestled in Mesopotamia and has a deep legacy spanning millenniums and civilizations. A recent discovery on the 8000-year-old Amida Höyük archaeological site has unearthed an 1800-year-old heating system that was quite sophisticated for the time.
Kurdish artist Zehra Doğan's work that she created during her two prison sentences between 2016 and 2019 are on display in Turkey for the first time. The artist was jailed on terrorism charges and gained international fame after finishing her second sentence and holding a show at London's Tate Modern.
Turkey's Presidential Symphony Orchestra will thrive thanks to the completion of its long-awaited music hall, Conductor Cemi'i Can Deliorman said. Having been in the works for 25 years, the music hall's large auditorium can seat more than two thousand viewers.
Alterations on Istanbul's iconic Hagia Sophia reportedly violated guidelines mandated under the site's "UNESCO World Heritage" status. Converted within two weeks of the legal ruling that allowed Muslim worship, the ancient structure's mosaics were unlawfully covered up, and any work on it was deemed practically impossible, architectural publication Mimarlık Magazine reported.