Half of Turkish citizens believe that their government is attempting to use increasing tensions with Greece as part of its “election agenda”, according to a survey conducted by MetroPoll, as reported by Gazete Duvar on September 14.
In all, 51.1% of respondents were said to take the view that the worsening relations between Ankara and Athens were related to the fact that Turkey is to hold its presidential and parliamentary elections no later than June 2023.
Those who did not take that view amounted to 26.2%, while 18.6% answered “I am not aware [of the issue]” and 3.7% declined to respond to the question.
Also, 36.2% of the respondents who said they backed the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) regarded the issue as part of the “election agenda”, whereas the figure was 37.9% for respondents who intended to vote for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the junior partner in the ruling coalition that has a parliamentary majority.
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu lately remarked that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis were “populists who play the war card as their votes are declining.”
Last week, Greece warned Western capitals that Erdogan could ignite a second European war in the Aegean.
Erdogan’s veiled threats of military action against Greece—made last week during a visit to the Bosnian capital Sarajevo—were brushed off by some analysts as the nationalist rhetoric of a strongman who knows he’s in big trouble in the opinion polls ahead of elections. But there are those who worry how far a desperate Erdogan might go to cling on to power, not least the Greeks whom the Turkish leader on September 6 unsettled with the chilling threat that Turkey could "come all of a sudden one night".
"What I'm talking about is not a dream," Erdogan also remarked at a press conference in Sarajevo. "If what I said was that we could come one night all of a sudden [it means] that, when the time comes, we can come suddenly one night."
The fraught relationship between Erdogan and Mitsotakis got so bad in May that the Turkish leader said that to him the Greek PM "no longer exists".
Asked last week by The Associated Press if he believed a war could break out between Turkey and Greece over issues including sovereignty over various Aegean islands, Mitsotakis replied negatively, saying: "I don't believe this will ever happen. And if, God forbid, it happened, Turkey would receive an absolutely devastating response. And I think they know it very well. Turkey knows the competence of the Greek [armed] forces."
Reuters reported Mitsotakis as saying on September 11 that he wanted to keep channels of communication open with Ankara despite Erdogan’s “unacceptable” comments.
Greece on September 12 said it had taken delivery of a first pair of upgraded F-16 military jets under a $1.5bn programme approved by the US to modernise its fighter fleet.
The announcement will rankle with Turkey—the Erdogan administration is struggling to win US approval for a bid to acquire new F-16s and upgrade kits for its existing F-16 fleet. The US Congress in recent years has blocked major arms sales to Turkey, citing disagreements over matters such as Ankara’s purchase of S-400 missile defence systems from the Kremlin, Turkish military incursions into Syria and the Turkish government’s disregard for basic human rights.