Turkey’s Erdoğan threatens Hatay constituents to elect AKP mayor if they ‘want service’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addressed residents in the earthquake-torn Hatay province and urged them to vote for the ruling AKP’s mayoral candidate in the local elections if they wanted to “receive services” in the province. 

Duvar English

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Feb. 3 urged the residents of quake-torn southeastern Hatay province to vote for the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) mayoral candidate if they wished to receive services. Erdoğan was in the province for various events, days before the first anniversary of the Feb. 6 earthquakes. 

Erdoğan said, “I will tell you this truth: If central and local governments do not cooperate, nothing will arrive in that province. Did Hatay receive anything? Now Hatay is miserable, it is poor,” referring to the destitute state of the province following massive destruction by the earthquakes. 

Opposition figures criticized the president’s speech for threatening the Hatay public with cutting government assistance to get votes. Hatay deputy of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Mehmet Güzelmansur commented that Erdoğan confessed to 21-year-long neglect towards the province. Hatay was the seventh most tax-collected province with 43 billion Turkish liras, whereas it received a mere 12.6 billion liras of public spending. 

“They did not build hospitals, or roads in Hatay. This is why we died the most, we crumbled the most. We had the most material and spiritual loss,” the deputy continued.   

The Feb. 6 earthquakes of 2023 affected Hatay the most. 20,000 people died and 13,000 buildings collapsed in the province. The government faced criticism over its failure to take timely action in the face of two earthquakes. One year later, many survivors still reside in temporary housing units and are exposed to the elements. 

President Erdoğan had promised 319,000 new homes in the earthquake region by February 2024 and a total of 680,000 homes a year later. The promises fell short, as Urbanization Minister Mehmet Özhaseki recently stated that 75,000 houses would be delivered within the next two months. 

AKP’s mayoral candidate in Hatay for the upcoming local elections on March 31 is deputy Mehmet Öntürk. He will run against current CHP mayor Lütfü Savaş, whose candidacy was criticized by residents as they believed he did not take accountability for the extent of the destruction in Hatay.