Elections in Türkiye: Extreme polarization between candidates

By | May 10, 2023

Polarization between the two candidates is increasing: Kilicdaroglu fears of fraud

With four days to go before the May 14 elections, opinion polls show presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu as the winner and, in fact, since the first Sunday. In general, these elections have a different character, both for Erdogan and for Kilicdaroglu. If the current polarization in Turkey is set aside, the true intentions of the two gladiators will be seen.

For the Turkish president, these elections have an existential character. On the one hand, he remains in a difficult financial position due to orders from him to cut interest rates at a time when inflation has reached its peak. On the other hand, this year the country celebrates 100 years since its foundation and wants to be present. This is demonstrated by his pre-election program, where he has included the arrival of the “Turkey century”.

As for Kemal Kilicdaroglu, he calls for the vote of young people and especially those who will vote for the first time, while at the same time opening up peace and tranquility to the West. In foreign policy, the leader of the main opposition is betting on a 180-degree turn. Also, in his pre-election speech, he mentioned the issue of refugees from Syria where he promised that within two years, 3.6 million Syrians will have returned to their homeland.

Erdogan risks alienating the female vote

The support of religiously conservative women was crucial to Erdogan’s rise to power. According to Politico, she was a liberating figure for women because her life options had previously been limited by secular governments that barred women from schools, universities, public spaces and workplaces if they wore the headscarf.

Some of the same women who helped bring Erdogan to power now have second thoughts, on issues ranging from economic mismanagement to women’s rights. Spousal violence is a particularly raw subject. Erdogan’s political problem is that he has been abandoned by former allies and forced into a coalition with increasingly radical Islamist partners for this election, raising fears that Ankara could scrap protections against domestic violence.

Things are more likely to take a different turn for young women who suspect Erdogan’s alliance with the Islamic New Prosperity Party and the Kurdish Islamist HÜDA-PAR, an offshoot of a violent group known as Kurdish Hizbullah, known for criminal activities. which include torture. and murder The New Welfare Party displays the names and photos of male candidates on its campaign bus, but one female candidate appears only as a dark silhouette. These two parties seek to bring a more Islamic way of life to Turkey, criminalize adultery, get rid of laws punishing violence against women, and change the civil code laws governing the minimum age of marriage for girls.

Erdogan withdrew from the Istanbul Convention to prevent and combat violence against women in July 2021 on the grounds that it facilitates homosexuality and undermines family values.

The Sultan continues to feed hares with petrels.

Wanting to gain impressions and reverse the negative image in opinion polls, the Turkish president announced a 45% salary increase for hundreds of thousands of civil servants. The decision affects more than 700,000 civil servants, who will now receive the minimum monthly salary of 15,000 Turkish liras (700 euros).

According to Politico, the announcement is seen as a move to attract voters in a mixed race dominated by the economy. Erdogan’s economic policies, once one of his strongest points, are unpopular, largely due to high inflation and the falling lira.

The announcement trended and drew criticism on Twitter, with some users complaining that civil servants will now earn more than civil engineers.

The move is unlikely to alleviate doubts that Erdogan is ever serious about fighting runaway inflation. Erdogan’s unorthodox monetary policies – cutting interest rates in the face of rising prices – have led to double-digit inflation, currency crises and skyrocketing costs of living that have angered Turkish voters.

Annual inflation hit a record 85.5% last October and was just below 44% in April.

Erdogan sees Kilicdaroglu’s back in measurements

According to the latest MAK poll, Kemal Kilicdaroglu is a trailblazer in the battle for the presidency. A few days before the elections, the official opposition leader maintains a 5-point lead, while since the first Sunday he has been very close to victory.

Specifically, the party quotas in the survey are established as follows:

  • Tayyip Erdogan: 45.4 (+1.7 since April 23)
  • Kemal Kilicdaroglu: 50.9 (+3.1)
  • Muharrem Inje (Motherland Party): 1.7 (-1.7)
    Sinan Ogan: 2.0 (+0.9)

As regards the parliamentary elections, there is a strengthening of the two major parties:

  • Justice and Development Party (AKP): 36.9 (+1.1)
  • Republican People’s Party (CHP): 30.1 (+1.0)
    (suitable for Kurds) YSP: 10.4 (+0.9)
  • Nationalist Action Party (MHP): 6.6 (-0.6)
  • “Good Party” (İYİ): 12.6 (+0.9)
  • Others: 3.4 (-3.3)

What is at stake politically and physically in Erdogan’s elections

If the polls are confirmed and Erdogan loses the election to Kemal Kilicdaroglu, no one knows if the transition of power will be smooth or not. As reported to ERT, Lambros Tzoumis said that “it is not only the political survival of the Turkish president that is at stake, but I think also the physical presence of him and his family. Therefore, since he controls the entire state apparatus, he can be expected to do everything in his power to stay in power.”

Commenting on the political situation in Turkey, Mr. Tzoumis referred to the actions of the Turkish president after the failed coup against him, saying that he “has created a paramilitary apparatus led by Soylu.” And as the Home Secretary pointed out that he “is the main spokesman for the deep state”, he had declared that we are not going to hand over power to terrorist collaborators.

He even characterized the situation as very difficult to predict what will happen in Turkey the next day, stressing once again that “it will not be a smooth transition.”

What if Erdogan loses?

Some analysts say that if Erdogan loses the vote by a narrow margin, he could question the results, based on past experience. During the 2019 local elections in Istanbul and Ankara, the AKP lost control of the country’s financial center and capital, prompting party officials in both cities to denounce the result, citing election irregularities.

The CHP’s lead in Istanbul was particularly narrow and ultimately led to the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) ruling in favor of a repeat vote to which the opposition disagreed. The CHP’s Istanbul mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu won the second round, dealing a heavy blow to Erdogan. Ulgen questioned the independence of the YSK and said he might give in to possible demands for a recount. The body will be the final judge of the fight, he said.

A 2023 Freedom House report stated that YSK judges, who oversee all voting procedures, “are appointed by AKP-dominated judicial bodies and often differ from the AKP in their rulings.” The AKP’s “institutional dominance” over SMEs and other sectors of society also “tilts the electoral field” in Erdogan’s favor, Washington-based Freedom House said.

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