Duvar English

Turkish journalist Ece Temelkuran, who is also a Duvar English columnist, said that right-wing populist leaders in the world, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who typically do not miss an opportunity to appear in front of the cameras, are relatively quiet regarding the issue of coronavirus epidemic.

Speaking with Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25), she said that right-wing leaders are “completely incapable in dealing with real problems,” such as the coronavirus.

“They [right-wing leaders] are retreating, which is interesting, from Tayyip Erdoğan to [U.S. President Donald] Trump, [U.K. Prime Minister Boris] Johnson in Britain. They are all retreating, we don’t see them as often as before. They love to speak normally,” she said during the interview, adding that this situation has led to a “political vacuum” to arise.

She said that the coronavirus epidemic has made it clear that “there is a need for portable politics,” which she defined as “politics that is not within institutions” but instead “politics where the attention is.”

Erdoğan did not address the Turkish nation for many days after the country confirmed its first coronavirus case. Erdoğan’s first major address regarding the spread of the coronavirus was on March 18, seven days after Turkey’s first confirmed case.

Temelkuran said that the current “political vacuum” should be filled with progressive leaders’ actions, emphasizing that the mayors of Turkey’s three biggest cities – Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir – have become more important figures amid the crisis.

“These mayors have started to bring in new precautions and new solidarity ties. They make amazing statements,” she said.

The mayors of these three big cities are from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

“They showed people how politicians should be. After 18 years under the [ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP-rule, we forgot how political leaders were behaving. It is a good reminder of the proper leadership. People will be holding onto that to demand justice,” she said.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu has many times urged the government to impose a city-wide curfew in a bid to curb the spread of virus.

“Some 60 percent of Istanbul is in danger. If 15 percent of the city’s population go outside, that would mean 2.5 million people. The number corresponds to the population of some European cities,” İmamoğlu said in his latest interview on March 30, adding that people go out on the streets when whether gets warmer.