Local election campaigns and a witch-hunt for opposition mayoral candidates dominated the Turkish press this week with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasting the opposition parties' "Nation Alliance" for their influence among Kurdish and minority group voters.
Not only that, but local dailies also focused on recession and growing financial hardships felt by Turkish people nationwide as the country slides into declining growth rates, skyrocketing unemployment and a weakening consumer purchasing power.
With surveys and opinion polls predicting the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) losing in the capital, Ankara, economic contraction serves a painful blow to the party, especially since its candidates had made growing the country's economy an election promise.
Turkish newspaper Zaman reported on some anxiety building over Erdogan, who is personally leading the campaign for local election, going as far as politicising the Christchurch mosques shooting in New Zealand in order to gain an edge over the opposition by stoking ultra-nationalist zeal among Turkish people.
Election Heat, Smear Campaigns
With only two weeks left before Turkey holds its March 31st local elections, election tensions erupted after Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan, head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), described the opposition Nation Alliance joining the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Good Party (İP) as "chameleonic" and separatists.
"It's a chameleonic alliance. They are separatists in the east [of Turkey], Ataturkist in the west and nationalists in Ankara," the Hurriyet Daily News cited Erdogan as saying. The president made claims about the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) being also an unannounced partner in the alliance.
The Daily Sabah also reported on Erdogan slamming the Nation Alliance for failing to explain to the people why it is being supported by the pro-minority HDP. The Turkish government has for long and without concrete evidence, accused the HDP of having links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Ironically, Hurriyet Daily News later reported on an Ankara prosecutor having filed a summary of proceedings against the country's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu,"demanding his immunity be lifted for insulting Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu."
Similarly, local dailies reported on Turkish prosecutors having prepared an indictment against the CHP mayoral candidate for Ankara, Mansur Yavaş, on charges of misconduct, which he denies and says are attempts to steamroll him out of the local elections.
"Latest public opinion surveys show that I am eight to 11 points ahead. We will definitely win Ankara," Yavas told the Hurriyet Daily News a day earlier, responding to the reports of his pending indictment. CHP leader, Kilicdaroglu, for his part, lashed out at an investigation launched against Yavas. "Mayoral candidates have been chosen. They have waited for long and opened an investigation only days before the elections. We are not afraid of anybody. You are free to prosecute us whenever you want," Kilicdaroglu stated.
As for Erdogan's pre-election stunts at AKP rallies, Turkish local daily, Zaman, reported on the Turkish president causing a pitiful stampede when he started tossing teabags at supporters, who in turn hurtled to grab the hand-outs, a symbol of the country going into recession. "I was so sad .. this is not right for you .. Come forward until I give you too!" Zaman quoted Erdogan as telling the rally.
Zaman also reported on Turkish prosecutors issuing orders for police officers in the southern Urfa Province to take down opposition election posters, billboards and ads.
Commenting on the matter, popular Sky News reporter, Yusuf AlSharif, tweeted: "The Turkish government is using police cars to remove opposition parties electoral campaign ads!" "The police in the service ... .. of the ruling party only !!" he added, applying satire to a borrowed Syrian quote, "the police is in the service of the people".
Turkey Slips into Recession, Unemployment on the Rise
The Turkish press, for the second week of March, covered the Turkish Statistical Institute announcement on the country's gross domestic product shrinking by 2.4% in the fourth quarter of 2018 from the previous quarter. That fall followed a decline of 1.6% in the third quarter, signalling a recession.
Hurriyet Daily News, for its part, cited the country's statistical authority's second report on the unemployment rate in Turkey occurring at 13.5% with 3.1% point increase annually.
According to the distribution of employment by sector, as reported by Hurriyet Daily News, losses in industry and increasingly weaker job generation in services mean labour market conditions are set to deteriorate further in the period ahead.
Employment distribution in Turkey had shown that 57.0% were employed in services, 19.8 % in industry, 17.3 % were employed in agriculture and 5.8 % were in construction.
As for the consumer's purchasing power, Zaman reported a 3.3% decline in the purchasing power of the average Turkish worker at minimum wage.
Turkey's minimum wage is set at $381-Turkish authorities had ordered a 26% increase in December 2018 in an effort to alleviate some of the suffering felt by Turkish people. However, it wasn't nearly enough, as the Turkish lira had lost nearly 30% of its value against the dollar, Zaman reported.
Making matters worse, Turkey's Industrial output dropped 7.3% in January in calendar-adjusted year-on-year terms. According to a report cited by Zaman, the marked downturn came on the back of decreased output in the manufacturing, mining and quarrying and electricity, gas and steam subsectors.
The Turkish economy is currently suffering a multi-faceted economic and financial crisis characterised by a depreciating currency and inflation caused by the Erdogan administration policies.
Despite inflation, as Zaman newspaper reported, falling since the record-high 25% recorded last October, it remained at a staggering 21.6% and constitutes one of "Turkey's most pressing economic problems."
Authorities Probe New Zealand Mosque Killer Visits to Turkey
The Turkish press also focused on the perpetrator of the Christchurch shootings that targeted two mosques in New Zealand, and killed 50, making several visits to Turkey.
A visitor believed to be the 28-year-old Australian, who has been arrested and charged with murder in New Zealand, "visited Turkey several times and stayed for a long period in the country," Hurriyet Daily News cited a Turkish official, speaking under conditions of anonymity, as saying.
The suspect could have been to other countries from Turkey in Europe, Asia and Africa, the Turkish Daily Sabah newspaper reported, adding that authorities were probing the suspect's movements and contacts in the countries.
The terrorist, according to the Daily Sabah, was in Turkey between March 17th-20th and Sept. 13th-25th in 2016.
Zaman reported on Erdogan exploiting the tragedy and bloodshed in the Christchurch shootings to advance his political agenda and making a case against the European Union suspending talks for Turkey's accession and the United States releasing a detailed report revealing the Turkish President's record on human rights abuses.
One of Turkey's top influencers on social media, NabdTurkey, as reported by Zaman, urged Erdogan not to politicise the terror attack. It also warned that Erdogan may stoke hatred towards the West, smearing Western culture as purely "Christian" and anti-Islam, and give rise to an ultra-nationalist movement in Turkey.
On the same day, Hurriyet Daily News reported on sending a high-level delegation to New Zealand in the aftermath of the mosque attacks.
"The manifesto that the terrorist released clearly shows that this was no individual act," it cited Erdogan as saying, stressing the importance of exposing the groups behind the attacks, and offering Turkey's help.
Australian, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, left a 78-page manifesto in which he attacked Erdogan, saying his death will serve to achieve a more stable world. The manifesto has a part entitled "to Turks," in which Tarrant threatens to kill all Turks living on the European side of Turkey and elsewhere in Europe. The text defines the area where Turks would be allowed to live peacefully as the "east side of the Bosporus."
Erdogan, for his part, chose to ride the wave of shock felt by Muslims worldwide to rile up the masses by saying that the attacks signalled, "rising hostility toward Islam," and called on Western countries to take "emergency" measures to avoid further "disasters".