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Turkish opposition head refuses to pay power bill in price rise protest


ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s main opposition party leader said late on Wednesday he will not pay his electricity bills until President Tayyip Erdogan withdraws recent price increases, as signs of discontent over surging inflation emerged across the country.

In January, inflation jumped to nearly 50% after a currency crash late last year triggered by Erdogan’s unorthodox low interest rate policy, raising the cost of living for Turks already struggling to make ends meet.

In response, the government has raised the minimum wage by 50% but also increased the prices of gas, power, petrol and road tolls to account for import price volatility.

“I will not pay any of my electricity bills from today until Erdogan withdraws the price hikes which he signed on December 31,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said overnight.

In a video released on his Twitter account, Kilicdaroglu also called for a reduction in the value-added tax imposed on power bills to 1% from 18%.

Electricity prices were raised by as much as 125% for high-demand commercial users and by around 50% for lower-demand households at the beginning of January.

Kilicdaroglu’s announcement came after shopkeepers, city councils and a religious community group spoke out this week about the rising energy bills.

Some restaurant owners posted notices on windows highlighting ballooning electricity bills, social media posts showed, while Turkey’s Alevi religious minority decided not to pay power bills for their places of worship, known as cemevis.

The record currency depreciation and soaring prices have hit Erdogan’s opinion poll ratings ahead of elections set for no later than June 2023. The government says credit, exports and investment will help the country weather inflation.

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said this week a new measure on power bills would be announced “very soon”.

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