By Aslı Aydıntaşbaş
On a recent visit to Istanbul ahead of Turkey’s critical May 14th elections, I was struck by a number of things.
The first was seeing how deeply scarred folks were from the February 6th earthquake — having been hit not only with grief but also the realization that at the end of his 20-year reign, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s hyper-centralized and dysfunctional governance system was partly to blame for the high number of casualties. Erdoğan’s re-election is no longer a foregone conclusion, which makes this election consequential not just for Turkish citizens but for the global balance of power.
Not surprisingly, friends, former colleagues, and ordinary people incessantly talked about the elections and the earthquake in the same breath. Many expressed anxieties about an anticipated mega-earthquake in Istanbul and described various escape plans. I ran into people who were stocking up on water in their cars, trying to buy property abroad, or making plans to move to a safer new apartment.
Between the concern about a massive Istanbul earthquake and the upcoming elections, the country seemed to be on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
I was also taken aback by the fact that nearly…