ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that voters should be more concerned with the price of bullets than the current high cost of food in the nation.
“Do you know how much a bullet costs? Here we are fighting against the terrorists, there you are complaining about the prices of tomatoes, peppers and potatoes,” he said during an election rally.
He further claimed that popular complaints about high food prices were only benefiting foreign powers, dismissively referring to such powers as “Hans or George,” as reported by Bloomberg.
“What is the cost of my soldier’s uniform and the struggle he’s giving against terrorists? Think about it!” he said to those gathered at the rally in the central city of Sivas.
Turkey has seen increased national instability after peace talks between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Ankara broke down in August 2015 and violence intensified.
Moreover, a failed military coup in July 2016 has raised tensions in Turkish society. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) blamed the plot on its former ally, US-exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Since then, the AKP has increasingly embraced nationalism, allying itself with the ultra-rightwing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in February 2018 in the run-up to presidential and parliamentary elections.
Turkey has also intensified operations against the PKK in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and has carried out cross-border operations and occupied land in Syria since August 2016. Turkish-backed militants seized the region of Afrin in March as well.
It’s not the first time the Turkish president has blamed foreign powers for Turkey’s own internal problems, such as the economy or the Kurdish issue.
Erdogan and his ruling AKP are facing a major challenge in the upcoming March 31 local elections, with high food costs creating a significant hardship for poorer segments of Turkey’s 82 million citizens that have traditionally supported the party, Bloomberg wrote.
According to Kurdish Affairs analyst Mutlu Civiroglu, the rising prices for essential goods and the high cost of living has become a hot topic in Turkey. From onions to tomatoes to parsley to diapers, he said, costs have risen across the board.
“The economy was always one of the strongest points of the AKP government, but in recent years, the AKP, which [has benefitted] from a good economy is suffering now.”
“The people are starting to raise their dissatisfaction with high prices,“ he continued, “and so Mr. Erdogan’s statement can be seen as an attempt at stopping [the] disaffection of the people, and trying to give a message that Turkey’s national security is at stake.”
Civiroglu said that the AKP wants to show voters that Turkey is surrounded by hostile forces and that citizens should make sacrifices for the “fight against threats against Turkish national security.”
“He is trying to give a message to his base [that] there should be no complaint about these high prices because everything that Turkey uses to defend itself costs a lot of money and everyone has to do some sacrifices from their end.”
Giran Ozcan, the US representative of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) on Friday tweeted in response that it would be better to make peace rather than to continue wars. “It’s cheaper,” he tweeted.
So far, AKP officials have rejected calls to return to the former peace process with the PKK.
“This is straight from the dictator playbook: Scare people with death, bloodshed, and 'terrorism' into accepting democratic deterioration, dictatorial authority, and economic collapse,” Ozcan told Kurdistan 24.
“The audacity to guilt the people into accepting the consequences of the wars he is pursuing and the consequences of his economic mismanagement is just shocking.”
Editing by John J. Catherine