ISTANBUL – RESPONSE. The battle of the “Halk Ekmek” (bread of the people) has broken out between the mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu and the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The great financial difficulties faced by the Turks in recent months in the neighboring country have caused a rapid increase in sales of cheap bread produced by the Municipality of Istanbul, resulting in huge queues at the kiosks. However, the Turkish government is accused of trying to obstruct the municipality’s efforts to increase the bread distribution network, as it fears that the political image of the mayor of Istanbul will be strengthened.
The price of bread in Istanbul last December rose by 20%. The 200 gram bread sells for 1.5 Turkish lira (0.17 euro cents), instead of 1.25 Turkish lira in 2020, and the 240 gram bread sells for 1.8 Turkish lira (0.2 cents), instead of 1.5 pounds in 2020. This increase caused an explosion in the sales of bread produced in the bakeries of the municipality of the city and is called “Halk Ekmek” (bread of the people). It weighs 250 grams and sells for a Turkish pound (0.11 cents), or half the price, creating huge queues at kiosks as bread remains a staple for the poor of Istanbul, home to 18 million people.
“Do you think it is easy to wait in line for hours to buy bread? In the 70’s people waited in line to buy gasoline, now for the first time we have queues for bread. This picture is sad. “And instead of facing the problem of poverty, intentionally or not, we are facing various obstacles”, said the mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglou.
According to Halk Ekmek, until November 2020, 800,000 loaves of this company were sold daily. “Today our sales have exceeded 1.5 million. There is a huge demand and we need to reach 2.5 million loaves a day,” said Halk Ekmek vice president Ozgen Nama. We visited one of the kiosks in the Jihangir area to buy bread. We waited in line with two other people, as it was noon and it was a bit crowded. This bread is delicious – perhaps better than other bakeries. We asked the customers the reasons for their wait and almost all of them answered “out of necessity, it is cheaper”.
To meet this huge demand, Mr. Imamoglou decided to expand the sales network of “Halk Ekmek” and decided to open 142 additional kiosks throughout Istanbul. But the city council, which is controlled by the ruling AKP-MHP coalition, twice voted against the mayor’s proposal. The Turkish press reports that the vote was the result of a political decision by the ruling coalition not to show that Imamoglu is the man who helps the poor. In response, the Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul rented 40 minibuses to sell the “Halk Ekmek” in 350 neighborhoods of Istanbul, thus bypassing the hurdle of the city council.
A few days later came another government hurdle, this time from the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture, which issued a directive calling for “a ban on the sale of bread outdoors”. “This directive targets the municipality’s effort to sell bread,” said members of the municipal council of Mr. Imamoglu’s faction. The popular reaction was intense, as was that of many Turkish media. The representative of the Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul, Murat Ongun, stated that “our fellow citizens should not worry. If necessary, we will distribute the bread door to door “. A few days later, the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture clarified that the directive concerned home-made bread, but political analysts considered it a retreat of the government after the strong reaction of the poor people.
“Halk Ekmek” has been produced since 1977. It is an initiative of the Municipality of Istanbul. From 1994 to 2019, when the municipality was under the control of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it again helped the lower classes with low prices. But now that the municipality has passed into the hands of the opposition, rising unemployment, rapid increases in basic products such as eggs 100%, sunflower oil 110%, bun 25%, bread 20%, and wages are rising to levels of 5% -8%, contribute to the multiplication of bread sales and the popular response of the mayor, a fact that worries Mr. Erdogan’s staff.
The Sözcü newspaper reports that a middle-income low-income family buys eight loaves of bread a day, so that the difference in price from the product sold in the other ovens can be used to pay their electricity or gas bills. City officials say there are people who walk 5 km to buy cheap bread every day.
Travel in… Space
Political analysts estimate that as the economic crisis in Turkey intensifies, the “battle” between Imamoglu and Erdogan will continue. The same analysts say that these conditions lead the Turkish president to try to change the agenda, describing the USA, the West, Emanuel Macron, Kyriakos Mitsotakis as “external enemies”, in order to divert the world’s attention from the main problems. of everyday life. At the same time, they note that at this time it can not promise economic recovery, as a result of which it promises space travel.
Earlier in the week, the Turkish president attacked the United States for its “lukewarm” announcement that 13 Turks had been killed by PKK members. A few days earlier, he had launched a personal attack on the President of France. On Friday, the representative of the ruling AKP party, Omer Celik, launched a fierce attack against the Greek government. “The statements made by the Greek Foreign Minister there are approaches that do not fit with friendship and provoke hostility against Turkey in the context of the friendship forum. It is certain that if the Greek-Greek Cypriot duo has the dream to give life to their maximalist demands, taking together other states, states that have problems with Turkey for other reasons, we guarantee that the dream will become, as usual, their nightmare. ” , he stated.
In this climate, Mr. Erdogan promised a trip to the Moon for the second consecutive week. “Scientists and researchers from many countries of the world express their appreciation and admiration for our vision, but the opposition speaks of a space fairy tale! “They have shrunk so much,” he said.
However, Mr. Erdogan’s political opponents stress that the votes are brought by bread and economic prosperity, not by “space travel”, nor by “external enemies”. They remember that the Turkish president himself, in 2002, came to power after a successful term in the Municipality of Istanbul, where he also helped the Turks living in the poor suburbs.
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