How Erdoğan framed his science and tech ‘great achievements’ as part of election campaign

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has ruled Turkey for the last 21 years. In the first few terms of his rule, Turkey experienced significant economic growth and a reduction in inequality. This was widely believed to be a reason for Erdoğan’s long-term popularity.

However, inflation hit a 24-year high of 85.5% in November 2022, creating speculation that economic instability would count against Erdoğan in the 2023 general election.

Despite this, in the first round of the election Erdoğan attracted 49.5% of the vote. Some argued that what Erdoğan calls his “great achievements” in science and technology were a significant reason for his continued popularity.

In the weeks before the first round, Erdoğan made a flurry of announcements about his “great achievements” and upcoming projects. He unveiled plans for Turkey to send its first astronaut to the International Space Station by the end of the year. The Teknofest Aerospace and Technology Festival was held to showcase many of these projects to the public. Erdoğan also showed off Turkey’s new multipurpose amphibious assault ship and a new Turkish armed drone, capable of taking off from aircraft carriers.

Erdoğan clearly hoped that these announcements would boost his popularity, by creating an image of Turkey becoming a world leader in science and technology. Erdoğan’s government also oversaw the country’s Black Sea natural gas pipeline project, an attempt to make Turkey energy independentAnd more than £55 billion had been invested in the national defence industry as part of a plan to make Turkey a world leader in defence products.

Creating Turkey’s own car

Although the car industry has had an important role in Turkey’s economy, it has been dominated by foreign car companies. But the idea of having a national car brand has had a long history. In 1961 the military government attempted to develop the first Turkish car, Devrim, as a symbol of modern Turkey, but it was not very successful. This desire for a Turkish national car was even made into a popular film.

In 2017, Erdoğan invited six business groups to produce a 100% domestic and national car by 2023, a year that marked the 100th anniversary of Turkey’s republic as well as being an election year.

The six business groups and the ministry of science, technology and industry formed Türkiye’s Automobile Joint Venture Group (Togg) in 2019, aiming to build the first fully Turkish-made car, which was also going to be an electric vehicle. Togg received the highest support package believed to have been given to any automotive firm in Europe and North America (about £2.8 billion).

Despite the extensive financial support and hype, the Togg car could not be “100% domestic and national” because domestic suppliers didn’t have the capacity to make the key parts. Crucial complex and expensive components, such as the battery, had to be imported.

In the end, only 51% of the Togg car was domestically sourced. This led to a change in the way it was described, rather than a “100% domestic and national” car Erdoğan began calling it “the car of Türkiye” and claimed the product as a Turkish industrial win.

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For the full article by Dr Merve Sancak visit the Conversation.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 23/81

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