FP: Turkish citizens flee Erdogan’s sinking ship pre-election

With Turkey’s May 14 elections fast approaching, many Turks are “voting with their feet,” citing mistrust of the government, suppression of free speech, inflation and deteriorating business opportunities as among the reasons, Foreign Policy writes.

According to a recent survey by Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation, more than 70 percent of Turks between the ages of 18 and 25 said they would prefer to live elsewhere, while more than 60 percent said they do not see a good future in Turkey. But young people are not the only ones looking for a way out. Turkey has lost the third most millionaires in the world, according to a report by the People’s Republican Party.

The 2021 report said 23,000 businessmen, including 10,000 millionaires, left Turkey in the three years leading up to 2021. In 2020, Turkish capital outflows reached nearly $44 billion.

It wasn’t always this way. When Erdogan first took office in 2003 as the country’s prime minister, things were going well. The Turkish economy was booming and unemployment was falling. This year’s centennial of the Republic should have been a joyous celebration of success. But instead, the “New Turkey” that Erdogan sought to establish is increasingly sliding toward authoritarianism, said Ahmet Erdi Ozturk, associate professor of political science at London Metropolitan University.

“We’ve seen several waves of emigration since the Turkish republic was established, but this new wave picked up since the government crackdown on the 2013 demonstrations at Istanbul’s Gezi Park as well as the failed coup in 2016. Since then, people of all backgrounds are leaving: students, young professionals, celebrities, the upper-middle class, and even religious groups,” Ozturk said.

They are joining a diaspora that has largely settled in Europe in recent decades; more than 6.5 million Turks now live abroad, according to the country’s Foreign Ministry.

“People need hope for a positive transformation in order to return,” Ozturk said. “If there’s a government change and restoration process, we could possibly see return-migration, but right now, most of the people who left are not seeing hope for change. It seems that after the elections, we could just be seeing another wave of people wanting to leave Turkey.”

The recent exodus has had an impact on Turkey. “We hear so many people who are talking about leaving, and that’s a serious problem. They are the most important capital Turkey has, and it’s draining away,” said Alper Coskun, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The disconnect between the AKP and its policies and the younger generation is obvious. The higher support for the AKP manifests itself in the older generation.”