Resentment over high electricity bills continues to mount across Turkey, posing a comprehensive political crisis for the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says the New York Times.
It started with a few angry Turks posting pictures of their electricity bills on social media, to show that their prices had nearly doubled at the end of January.
And some restaurant owners put notices on the windows of their restaurants explaining the significant rise in electricity prices, according to posts on social media.
Turkey raised energy prices at the beginning of the year, including a 50 percent increase in electricity prices for low-consuming households, and 125 percent for high-volume commercial users, since the beginning of January.
The rise comes at a time when Turks have been suffering from accelerated inflation (now at more than 48 percent according to official figures) for several months, and criticism is mounting even from allies of Erdogan, who the New York Times says is struggling to pull the country out of an economic crisis.
According to Reuters figures, the inflation rate jumped in January to nearly 50 percent after the currency collapse late last year due to Erdogan’s unconventional policy of keeping interest rates low, raising the cost of living for Turks who are already struggling to make ends meet.
Rising energy prices have affected Erdogan’s popularity in opinion polls ahead of elections scheduled no later than June 2023.
Food, fuel, and road tolls more than doubled to offset volatility in import prices. It seems that the turn now is on electricity after the Turkish lira sank to its lowest level.
Even as Erdogan decided to raise the minimum wage by 50 percent last month to help low-income workers, his government has warned that there will be an increase in fees for some utilities. “But few people expected the shock of what happened,” says the New York Times.
Shopkeepers, city councils, and clerics have complained about rising electricity prices.
“We are destroyed. We are in really bad shape. Not only us, but everyone is complaining,” says Mahmut Goksu, 26, who runs a barbershop in the central Turkish province of Konya.
Goksu’s January electric bill has risen from $44 to $104, now higher than the monthly rent he pays for his shop. He comments, “I thought about leaving work and getting a job with a salary, but this is my job.”
Electricity price increases varied across the country, but every company or household experienced an increase of some sort.
The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party has said he will not pay the electricity bill until Erdogan cancels the recent price increases.
“I will not pay any of my electricity bills from now until Erdogan retracts the price hike he signed on December 31,” said Kemal Kilcdaroglu, leader of the Republican People’s Party.
Kilicdaroglu also called, in a video recording posted on his Twitter account, to reduce the value-added tax imposed on electricity bills to one percent from 18 percent.