Erdoğan gives public workers 45 percent pay rise in Turkey’s tight election race

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ISTANBUL — In a sign President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan realizes he needs to pull out all the stops before Turkey’s too-close-to-call election in five days, he announced a 45 percent pay hike for hundreds of thousands of public workers on Tuesday. 

The decision affects more than 700,000 public workers, who will now be paid a minimum monthly wage of 15,000 Turkish lira (€700).

The announcement is seen as a move to attract voters in a tight election race dominated by the economy. Erdoğan’s economic policies, once one of his main selling points, are unpopular, largely due to high inflation and a tumbling lira. 

“Within the framework of this collective bargaining agreement, we are raising wages by 45 percent, including the welfare share, thus increasing the minimum wage of public workers to 15,000 lira,” Erdoğan said in the capital Ankara.

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Erdoğan signaled the government would also raise the wages and pensions of civil servants.

The announcement was a trending topic and caused criticism on Twitter, with some users protesting that public workers will now earn more than public engineers. 

The move is unlikely to assuage doubts about whether Erdoğan will ever get serious about tackling runaway inflation. Erdoğan’s unorthodox monetary policies — slashing interest rates in the face of surging prices — have led to double-digit inflation, currency crises and spiraling living costs that have infuriated Turkish voters. 

Annual inflation hit a record high of 85.5 percent last October and was just under 44 percent for April. 

“We will continue to take these steps despite the burden of more than $100 billion that the earthquake disaster put on our economy. Now, thank God, Turkey has reached the strength and size that can handle all these burdens,” Erdoğan said, referring to the cost of rebuilding after this year’s disastrous earthquakes in the southeast of the county.

A unified opposition presidential candidate, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, is running against Erdogan and POLITICO’s Poll of Polls puts the contest neck-and-neck.