Jeremy Hobson: Turkey goes to the polls this weekend. And Sunday’s election will be watched closely, as the first democratic election in the region since the Arab Spring began. The ruling party — which has been in power for almost a decade — is widely expected to win because of one key factor: the economy.
Marketplace’s Alisa Roth reports from Istanbul.
Alisa Roth: Here on the streets of Istanbul, you could easily think that Turkish politicians aren’t engaged in a battle of ideologies, but in a battle of the bands.
Ahmet Gumus, who is a campaign volunteer, is here to drum up votes for the ruling AKP Party. He flips through campaign brochures, showing me what the party has accomplished. He says: We’ve built roads. Inflation is down. Europe and the Middle East are investing here.
Turkey’s economy is growing at 9 percent, which is roughly the same rate as China. Inflation is under control. Ordinary Turks, who once had to get around the country by bus, can now afford to fly from one of the dozen or so new airports that have been built.
Ali Carkoglu is a political scientist at Koc University in Istanbul.
Ali Carkoglu: Almost everywhere, you can take a plane ticket and fly within an hour or so. And when you get on a plane, you see that, you know, quite modest background Turkish peasants are also using the plane.
And the AKP is quick to take credit — its election ads boast of how much things like education and health care have improved. Some voters are afraid the party wants to lead the country in a more Islamic and less secular direction but, Carkoglu says economically, you can’t deny that it’s delivered the goods.
Carkoglu: On the economic front, I can think of no significant group, basically, who would make a timewise comparison and say, I’m worse off.
But Turkey has been through a lot of boom and bust cycles in the past, and many people say it’s due for a downturn. Here in Istanbul, though — and in much of the rest of the country — voters seem to be buying the party’s economic pitch.
Bilal Deniz owns a jewelry store. He never really bothered to vote before, because he thought all politicians were corrupt. But he says after the last eight years, you can’t deny the current government has been good for Turkey’s economy. And good for him.
So on Sunday, he’ll vote for the first time. For the AKP.
In Istanbul, I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.
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