Elections Türkiye: The possibility of Erdogan’s defeat is real

By | May 11, 2023

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) face their biggest political challenge in elections on Sunday, with polls suggesting a united opposition could end his two decades in power.

In the midst of an economic crisis and months after earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people and displaced millions more, parliamentary and presidential votes will decide who leads the country of nearly 85 million people and where it goes next.

Erdogan has championed religious and conservative social values ​​at home, presiding over an increasingly authoritarian regime that is increasingly intolerant of criticism. Abroad, he affirmed Turkey’s influence in the region and loosened his ties with the West.
His main rival is Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), the candidate of the six-party National Alliance, which has vowed to overturn many of Erdogan’s policies, including his all-powerful executive presidency.

How do the elections work?

In presidential elections, which are held every five years, any candidate who obtains more than 50% of the vote in the first round is elected president. If no one obtains a majority, the election goes to a second round, to be held on May 28, between the two main candidates.

In parliamentary elections, which are held simultaneously, the number of seats a party wins in Turkey’s 600-member parliament is directly proportional to the number of votes it receives, as long as it wins, alone or as part of a coalition, at least 7% of the votes. national votes.

According to The Guardian, polls will open for Turkey’s 61 million voters at 8am local time on Sunday May 14 and close at 5pm, with results expected in the evening. It is estimated that 3 million voters living abroad will have voted in advance.

Who are the presidential candidates and what do they support?

The country’s most powerful leader since Ataturk, who founded modern Turkey a century ago, Erdogan, 69, steered Turkey away from secularism and in 2018 abolished its parliamentary system, centralizing power in the presidency.

From his palace on the outskirts of Ankara, he effectively dictates government policy and, according to his critics, has eroded democracy by stifling dissent and bringing the media and judges under his control. His supporters say he has saved the country from serious security threats, such as the 2016 coup attempt.

Economists also blame Erdogan for the country’s economic crisis, saying his insistence on low interest rates has sent inflation soaring to 85% last year and caused the Turkish lira to lose 80% of its value against to the dollar in five years.

Kemal Kilisdaroglu, a 74-year-old retired civil servant, has been Turkey’s top opposition leader for more than a decade, leading the CHP party to major victories in several major city municipalities, including Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

The Nation Alliance candidate has been criticized for lacking charisma and blocking politicians from his own party, such as the high-profile mayors of Istanbul and Ankara, who might have had a better chance of winning.
The alliance has prioritized justice, corruption and education, pledging to restore the independence of the central bank, reduce inflation, dissolve the executive presidency, restore the powers of parliament, return Syrian refugees and improve relations with the West.

Perhaps crucially, Kilisdaroglu enjoys the support of the main pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which finished third in the 2018 election and faces possible court-ordered closure over alleged links between some of its members. and illegal armed Kurdish fighters. About 15% of Türkiye’s voters are Kurdish.

Muharrem Ince of the right-wing nationalist Homeland party has ignored criticism that his candidacy is dividing the vote against Erdogan, while right-wing Sinan Oğan, a former member of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), is running as an independent.
What do the voters think?

The election campaign was dominated by the state of the Turkish economy and the cost of living crisis, as well as the massive damage caused by the earthquakes and the question of which president and which party alliance is in a position to make things better.

The opposition also attacked the government’s alleged mishandling of the rescue operation and the aftermath of the earthquakes, accusing it of failing to enforce building regulations. The hard-hit and traditionally pro-Erdogan eastern country could prove crucial.

Why does it matter beyond Türkiye?

Under Erdogan, Turkey has displayed military might in the Middle East and beyond, launching incursions into Syria, waging an offensive against Kurdish militants in Iraq and sending military support to Libya and Azerbaijan.

It has also clashed diplomatically with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, sparred with Greece and Cyprus over maritime borders in the eastern Mediterranean and sanctioned the US arms industry after buying Russian air defense systems.

Erdogan’s closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin has led critics to question Turkey’s commitment to other NATO members, something Ankara’s recent reluctance to support Swedish and Finnish membership applications has only reinforced. .

Turkey, however, also negotiated a deal on Ukraine’s wheat exports, underscoring its potential role in ending the war. For the EU, Erdogan’s defeat would be strategically welcome but politically difficult, as it could reinitiate Turkey’s membership application.

What about the parliamentary elections?

Voters can choose from 32 parties, most organized in multiple alliances, currently led by the People’s Alliance made up of the ruling AKP, the MHP, the Greater Unity Party (BBP) and the New Prosperity Party (YRP).

The six parties that make up the opposition National Alliance are the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Good Party (İYİ), the Happiness Party (SP), the Future Party (GP), the Democratic Party (DP) and the Democracy Party. and Progress (DEVA).
The Green Left party (YSP, including the Kurdish HDP candidates) and the Turkish Workers’ Party (TİP) form the Alliance for Labor and Freedom, while three left-wing parties are in the Union of Socialist Forces and two right-wing parties in the Ancestral. Alliance.

Who will win and what will happen next?

In the presidential election, the latest polls showed Kilisdaroglu narrowly leading Erdogan by about two points, but he is unlikely to receive an outright majority of the vote, meaning a runoff is expected in two weeks.

Some commentators have warned that if Erdogan loses by a narrow margin, he may refuse to resign, as happened when the AKP lost control of Ankara and Istanbul in disputed municipal elections, forcing a runoff in the latter.

In the parliamentary elections, the president’s AKP will emerge as the largest party, but the opposition National Alliance is expected to be the largest political bloc. Many analysts caution, however, that polls in Turkey are not always accurate.

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