The rumors about Recep Tayyip Erdogan's health don't stop. Even if the Turkish president is not as sick as it is said, his power is dwindling.
"Erdogan is said to have died." The rumor spread in TurkeyQuickly a few days ago, right after the president had a meeting of his party, the Islamic-conservative AKP, canceled and was not seen for half a day. Party friends are said to have circulated it in chat groups, was learned in Ankara behind closed doors, the government itself did not really comment.
Instead, his head of communications, Fahrettin Altun, published a short video hours later: Erdogan with his head bowed, walking a few steps on a rain-soaked reception carpet. No information as to when or where it should have been, just the words: "Trust the friend and fear the enemy ..." - shortly afterwards it was said that 30 people who had tweeted about the rumor were being investigated for insulting the president.
It is well known that those who have been told of death live longer, but the alleged death notice and the not really clear video aroused enough doubts. It wasn't the first news of this kind either. For months there has been speculation on social media about the state of health of the 67-year-old president.
Erdogan often gave the occasion himself recently: he repeatedly fell asleep at public events, at another appointment seemed to have to lean on his wife to climb a flight of stairs, and at a reception a few weeks ago he clearly had problems with one foot forward to put the other. There were also rumors that Erdoğan had become forgetful, had attacks of confusion and breathing problems, and had to vomit frequently Insiders claim.
There are no public statements about Erdogan's state of health, especially nothing official. All that is known for sure is that he was operated on years ago for cancer and that he suffers from epilepsy. Everything else remains rumors. However, it is undisputed that he is ailing in the figurative sense: The man from the Istanbul poor district of Kasimpasa, who like no other politician in the history of modern Turkey has created an empire, is currently fighting for political survival almost every day.
Nobody wants to have voted for him
According to surveys, eight out of ten Turks are now dissatisfied with the Erdogan government. Gone are the days when the president gathered more than half of the country behind him, including a large part of the more left-wing intellectuals. Some of the country's thinkers even recently publicly apologized for their "mistake".
Hardly anyone wants to admit that they voted for Erdogan in the elections. Even some Muslims, for whom he created a place in the new elite with political Islam, are turning away. The party leader of the Islamist Millî Görüş party Saadet stated a few days ago: "We only agree on one thing. And that is that we do not agree on anything." Millî Görüş was once Erdogan's ideological home.
The main reason for the fall of the man who, not so long ago, believed himself even more powerful and bigger than the founder of the republic Ataturk, is the economy. It's been going downhill for years, but it wasn't particularly noticeable for a long time. One reason: The people in Turkey have a strong social network that was more reliable than the government's actions. Friends and families looked out for one another, one helping the other.
And when nobody had anything to give, many in Turkey just pulled out their credit cards. But just as their limits are exhausted after a few years, even the strongest social network will eventually no longer hold up. And someday is now. The number of people who are in debt has increased so much in the past few months.
Added to this is the recent rapid decline in the domestic currency lira. It loses value almost every day. Last week it was about 25 percent. This is fueling inflation, which is currently officially 20 percent. Economists fear that this figure could double in the near future. For the citizens this means: What used to be taken for granted is now a luxury.
Bread alone has become 900 percent more expensive in the 19 years that Erdogan ruled, meat by almost 1,200 percent. Production costs have become too high in this import-dependent country. Recently, this has even led to rationing: a supermarket chain has now started to limit the sale of sugar and oil - to one package per customer.
The renowned economist Erdal Saglam in Ankara sees the guilt mainly in the presidential system introduced by Erdogan, which made him more or less the sole ruler. Since then, he has not listened to consultants and economists. "In addition, the presidential system has enabled him to fill important positions with people who are close to him - instead of those who would be suitable for the job," says Saglam. Erdogan's economic policy no longer follows an economic plan, but is based more on ideological convictions.
For example, despite all logic, he sticks to low interest rates, which drives inflation and exchange rates high. Or it cuts down on loans to generate rapid growth and keep people happy. That frustrates economists and entrepreneurs alike. The large association Tüsiad, once loyal to the government, publicly complained a few days ago about the country's interest rate policy. Erdoğan wondered: "I don't understand these business people. We tell them to get loans at low interest rates and invest them. Why don't they do it?"
It is true that Erdoğan has survived every crisis so far. From the outside it even looked as if he had become more powerful with every hurdle he had to overcome. From the inside, the opposite is the case. For example, he was able to overthrow the military, one of the most important institutions in the country, with constitutional reforms and waves of arrests. But there was one thing he underestimated, says a security officer who wants to remain anonymous: "The loyalty of the officers was not to him, but to the Republic." What is meant is the republic based on the idea of its founder Ataturk and the Young Turks: secular, western, economically strong.
"The military did not forget"
With every attempt to dismantle the system in favor of his own power, Erdogan has made more enemies, says the official and gives an example: "The military has not forgotten how his generals were removed, how he was building a parallel Islamic army and Turkey wanted to miss out on new, Islamic values. " The security officer believes that he acted so deluded and irrational that he felt strongest when his power began to crumble. For him, that point in time was already a few years ago.
Other high-ranking circles in Ankara see it the same way. Why not already intervened? "We are patient," it says again and again. Patient and obviously not inactive: At least in politics, clear movements are visible. A few days ago, the opposition parties united for the first time in favor of new elections. The head of the İyi party (center-right) has long been advertising that she wants to become prime minister - even if Erdogan actually abolished this post.
Even his own defense minister, General Hulusi Akar, walks the streets of the country on the sidelines of events and speaks to the people as if he were the next president. Unofficially, he in particular is given good chances of inheriting Erdogan.
Like the speculations about Erdogan's state of health, these are of course only observations for the time being. It is also a fact that if there were elections now, he would lose them. They are not planned for 2023 and a lot can happen until then. In Ankara, however, many are certain these days: Erdogan will not make it that far.
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