ANKARA (BLOOMBERG) – In the almost two decades that Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled Turkey, he has poured tens of billions of dollars into giant infrastructure projects to cement popular support while he tightened his grip on the country.
Now, an exhibition at the presidential palace in Ankara that opened on Friday (Dec 10) seeks to burnish that image of the 67-year-old, who has been trailing in opinion polls as the country remains in the grip of economic turmoil.
On display are scissors used by the president at various ceremonies over the past 18 years, that tell the story of hundreds of openings at airports, power plants and highways.
The exhibits range from a pair Mr Erdogan used at a ceremony in the northern city of Rize in 2003 and to one employed for the opening of the 36-floor “Turkish House” in New York in September, local media reported.
Mr Erdogan has “kept all the scissors and ribbons” he used as tokens and now they number more than 800 pairs, Yeni Safak newspaper wrote.
That number may even understate the actual openings.
Officials said many were carried out “via pressing buttons” and so no scissors were collected, Hurriyet newspaper reported.
Mr Erdogan has been struggling with an ailing economy, inflation in excess of 20 per cent and a slumping currency.
In May, he revived the idea for a multi-billion-dollar canal, an alternative to Istanbul’s Bosporus strait, that would link the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara and create thousands of jobs.
So far, though, it is little more than a proposal as Turkey seeks ways to finance it.
The President’s job approval is hovering around 39 per cent, near record low levels last seen in 2015, according to a November survey by pollster Metropoll.
A majority of opinion polls conducted in recent months show the opposition Nation Alliance would beat the Erdogan-led coalition comfortably in an election.
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