Turkey’s quake response could shape tough election for Erdogan

By Orhan Coskun and Birsen Altayli

ANKARA, Feb 7 (Reuters) – Turkey’s deadliest earthquake in a generation has handed President Tayyip Erdogan a huge rescue and reconstruction challenge which will overshadow the run-up to May elections already set to be the toughest of his two decades in power.

A day after the quake struck, killing more than 3,500 people in Turkey, opposition parties and some residents in worst-hit areas complained that authorities were slow or ill-equipped to react to the devastation.

Any perception that the government is failing to address the disaster properly, or had not enforced adequate building codes in a country prone to earthquakes, could hurt Erdogan’s prospects in the vote.

But analysts say the president, a skilled campaigner whose government has tackled earthquakes, wildfires and other natural disasters since he came to power in 2003, could rally national support around the crisis response and strengthen his position.

Speaking just hours after Monday’s quake, which he described as the worst to hit Turkey in more than 80 years, Erdogan said thousands of rescue workers had already mobilised and no effort would be spared in the harsh winter conditions.

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