Geopolitics

The Top 10 Takeaways Of Turkey's Historic Election

Erdogan's future is suddenly uncertain
Erdogan's future is suddenly uncertain
Ahmet Hakan

ANKARA â€"Last Sunday's general elections in Turkey represented nothing less than a cultural and political revolution: Not only did President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lose his parliamentary majority, but Kurdish politicians also succeeded for the first time in winning enough votes to enter parliament.

The Turkish electorate's disenchantment with its egomaniacal leader deals a blow to Erdogan's one-party rule, and his ambitions to convert the country into a U.S.-style presidential system.

Here are the top 10 takeaways from this historic election:

1. The defeat of arrogance

Erdogan's pedantic speeches, his constant efforts to push the boundaries of the law, his bragging and high opinions of himself, his underestimation of opponents and belief that voters are fools â€" all of these were resoundingly defeated.

2. A star is born

Kurdish politician Selahattin DemirtaÅŸ is now an essential and transformative figure in Turkish politics. Hailed as the "Kurdish Obama," DemirtaÅŸ helped steer Turkey's pro-Kurdish party beyond the 10% vote threshold necessary for it to finally take seats in parliament. He possesses a calm manner, a sense of humor, and an embracing and liberal attitude.

3. When you push too far

Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) was depicted on billboards everywhere. Its members claimed every field for their own. They used civil servants for political campaigning. They tried everything through the president and the prime minister, and yet they garnered just 40% of the vote. Pushing too far backfired.

4. Media tune-out

It's now clear, given the election outcome, that the pro-government media has little effect on the people. Its newspapers go unread, its television broadcasts unwatched.

5. Davutoglu is done

"I will resign if my party cannot come into power on its own," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said. His political future looks bleak if you take him at his word.

6. Birth of a Turkish-Kurdish brotherhood

Thanks to this election, the Kurdish party is now a mainstream part of this country's political establishment. Turks and Kurds came together to fight for equality and freedom. Istanbul and the Kurdish stronghold of Diyarbakir became brotherlands this time for real.

Kurdish boys in Diyarbakir. Photo: Leoboudv

7. Credibility for CHP

The Republican People's Party (CHP), the main opposition, ran a very good campaign this time, abandoning an ideological approach and focusing instead on the economy. Its representatives offered positive messages. But even if its past credibility problems couldn't be overcome, it should continue down the same road.

8. Erdogan's self-sabotage

He spoke at political rallies when he should have been acting as an impartial president. He dominated the party's campaign and was square in the middle of the political debates. He didn't just push the boundaries of the constitution, he ignored it. For all these reasons, he is most to blame for his party's poor election performance.

9. A certain coalition

Almost nothing will be ruled out in forming a government. All possibilities will be debated from now on: coalitions, early elections, minority elections, etc.

10. The economic effect

Those who believed there was a connection between support for Erdogan's party and economic growth were apparently right. His party received beyond 50% of the vote when Turkey was growing, but in the face of halting prosperity, the ruling party paid the price.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum

-Analysis-

SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.


It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ