Seismic Diplomacy: Erdogan and the Aftermath of the Turkish Earthquakes
President Erdogan may be instrumentalizing what happens in the aftermath to craft his P.R. campaign ahead of the next elections.
The setting: a cosy Ossetian restaurant owned by two Ossetian ladies close to Istiklal street, a very busy central area of Istanbul.
The players: a smatter of Istanbul intelligentsia – academics, media, liberal professionals, lawyers, highly educated, secular, very critical of the AKP ruling party.
The questions: during dinner, I asked the table their analysis of the state’s response to the deadly earthquakes in Turkey, and how President Erdogan may be instrumentalizing what happens in the aftermath to craft his P.R. campaign ahead of the next elections.
After our conversation, it was still not officially confirmed whether the next presidential elections will be held on May or June 2023.
So the stage is set for an unedited exercise in direct democracy, with some stunning answers, and way more enlightening than what Turkish media and think tanks may be spinning. One of the participants coined the definitive neologism for what Erdogan will be engaged on for the next few weeks and months: Seismic Diplomacy.
According to scholars and geologists, the number of deaths could reach 150,000. There’s no liability. No professionalism. No organization. No coordination. During the earthquake in 1999, in three to four hours the Turkish military were in the area. This time, unfortunately, it took them nearly two days. President Erdogan has tried to make a kind of election campaign. Will it work before the elections? This time, he’s not so lucky.”
“People wanted help, and there was no help. After 48 hours, there were only 300 to 400 soldiers there, nothing else. Because Erdogan was so afraid to call them, unlike 1999. For Turkish people, their perception, the state is very important. They do not think about the government. They couldn’t see the presence of the state. Turkey became like a Little America. It’s always a P.R. thing. AKP knows this better than any other political party. They are like the American political establishment. If they have strong enough P.R. and mention the president’s name in each of their press releases, they t
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