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Turkey targets voters with government benefits

Turkey's ruling AKP government has long made a habit of spending big money on social assistance to inspire loyalty and collect votes.
Supporters of Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan wave his portraits and Turkish and his ruling Ak Party (AKP) flags during an election rally in Ankara March 22, 2014. Turks faced fresh difficulties in accessing the Internet on Saturday after the government blocked access to Twitter, the site where tweets on a corruption scandal have angered Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Twitter was blocked late on Thursday, hours after Erdogan vowed to "wipe out" the social media service. Leading international condemna
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One of the major characteristics of Turkish politics is the official policy of distributing social assistance instead of investing strategically to reduce unemployment. Poor segments of society have become dependent upon cash and other assistance, and recipients of it inevitably vote for the ruling party. For the poor citizens, casting a vote once every four years in return for handouts is a good deal. Fear that the assistance will be terminated should another party come to power is a powerful inducement to vote for the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Governments should take action to eliminate poverty, not make people survive on handouts. But for years, per capita national income has been nearly stagnant at $10,000, meaning poverty and dependence are here to stay. Social assistance is funded by the state treasury, which means spending the money collected from citizens as taxes. Naturally, the poor do not want to upset the established order.

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