Erdogan is losing the support of Turkey’s new voters.

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As Turkey gears up for its upcoming presidential and parliamentary polls, a significant number of first-time voters who have reached voting age since Erdogan came to power in 2003 will have their say on May 14. Opinion polls indicate that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the 69-year-old president, and his Islamic-rooted party are not popular among voters in the 18-25 age bracket, with only 20% willing to vote for him. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the 74-year-old former civil servant and Erdogan’s main opponent, is banking on this demographic to win the elections.

Focusing on the future, student Emre Ali Ferli says, “When President Erdogan is gone, young people will be able to focus on their exams and to speak freely.” Over half of the first-time voters are dissatisfied with the life they lead, and most are less religious and more modern than the average voter, according to Erman Bakirci, a researcher at the Konda polling institute.

Firat Yurdayigit, a 21-year-old textile worker, criticized Erdogan for building a third airport for Istanbul “instead of taking care of people.” Even Bilal Buyukler, a 24-year-old friend of Yurdayigit who is trying to defend the Turkish leader, conceded that Erdogan was “partly responsible” for years of economic turmoil, including historically high inflation and a currency collapse.

Kilicdaroglu has taken pains to dispel the staunchly secular image of his party, the CHP, which is a constant worry for socially conservative voters who found a home in Erdogan’s AK Party. Last year, he proposed a law guaranteeing women’s right to wear headscarves, trying to peel away voters won over by Erdogan’s unshackling of religious restrictions.

His six-party alliance also includes three conservative Islamic groups, which Seda Demiralp, an associate professor at Istanbul’s Isik University, called “a message of reconciliation intended for the religious electorate.” Sevgi, a 20-year-old who lives in Eyup, one of Istanbul’s most conservative districts, will vote but does not want to “mix politics and religion.” She believes that Erdogan is the main obstacle to her dreams, saying, “Even if he was a good president, he shouldn’t be able to rule for so long.”

SOURCE: Ref-http://Istanbul (AFP)

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