Türkiye Vote this Sunday to choose the next president and a new Parliament. A few months after the first centenary of the Turkish RepublicThe country is at a crossroads. Will the increasingly authoritarian win Recep Tayyip Erdogan or will the opposition led by Kemal Kilicdarogluunited in the name of freedom and justice, but very diverse?
Kemal Kilicdarogluleader of the center-left secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), is the main contender to unseat erdoğan after 20 years in power. kilicdaroglu74, is the joint candidate of the National Alliance, a six-party coalition called “Table of Six” who has promised to dismantle the presidential system established by erdoğan after a constitutional reform in 2017 and return the country to a parliamentary democracy with checks and balances.
For his part, erdoğan aspires to a third presidential term but which has already spanned two decades at the top of power. The 69-year-old leader of the conservative and religious Justice and Development Party (AKP), already the country’s longest-serving leader, has been in office since 2014, but has actually been Turkey’s strongman since 2003, when he took over as prime minister.
Third in discord is sinan ogan, a former academic who is backed by a nationalist anti-immigration party. A fourth applicant, the former leader of the CHP Muharrem Inceannounced his withdrawal from the race on Thursday, a move likely to benefit kilicdaroglu.
Polls show a country divided down the middle, with a slight advantage for the opposition kilicdaroglu.
they can vote more than 64 million people, including 3.2 million expatriate Turkish citizens. More than 1.6 million people have already voted on ballots abroad or at airports. Voter turnout in Türkiye is traditionally high.
The big unknown is the 11% undecided and the 5 million young people who will go to the polls for the first time. Even so, the most probable thing is that none of the candidates obtains more than 50% of the votes. In this case, a second round will be held between the two candidates with the most votes on May 28.
Electors will also vote to fill seats in the Grand National Assembly, of 600 members. The opposition would need at least a majority to be able to enact some of the democratic reforms it has promised.
How was the election campaign?
Erdogan has lost ground in the middle of a shaky economy and a cost of living crisis in a context of high inflation and devaluation of the Turkish lira, the national currency. His government has also been criticized for its deficient answer after the devastating earthquake that ravaged southern Turkey, killing more than 50,000 people on February 6.
With the economy in trouble, the Turkish leader appealed to the nationalism. During his campaign, he portrayed the opposition as complicit with “terrorists” and foreign powers who want to harm Türkiye. In an attempt to consolidate his conservative base, he has also accused the opposition of supporting LGBTQ rights “deviant“and of being”drunk”.
He even went so far as to accuse Kilicdaroglu of having established relations with the outlaw Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Last Sunday, hundreds of thousands of his supporters watched a fake video showing a commander of the Kurdish formation singing an opposition campaign song.
Erdogan is considered one of the best speakers of his generation. He is tireless at political rallies and has already shown that he is willing to use state power to your advantage: in recent months it has promoted a pension reform extremely generous and has raised the minimum wage several times, in a rather obvious attempt to curry favor with the electorate. The government too controls much of the media through business friends, who can guarantee favorable coverage. For this reason, many analysts have even wondered if Erdogan would accept electoral defeat.
kilicdarogluFor his part, he is a moderate politician, known for his frugality and honesty, credited with uniting a previously fractured opposition. He “Gandhi” of Turkish politicsas he is called in the country, has promised to reverse the democratic setback and the repressive measures against freedom of expression and dissent under the mandate of erdoğan.
His figure has often been criticized within the coalition for lacking charisma and also for belonging to the religious minority of the Alevispersecuted in Türkiye. kilicdarogluhowever, it has been able to exploit the latter to its advantage by focusing on a inclusive rhetoric and endearing himself to the country’s minorities, while he solved the problem of charisma by naming the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara as eventual vice presidents –Ekrem İmamoğlu and Mansur Yavas-, two leading figures from his own party.
kilicdaroglu the support of the party has also been secured pro-Kurdish of the country, credited with around 10% of the votes.
Opposite ideas of country
The different approaches – and the different rhetoric – of the two candidates reflect opposite ideas of the country.
Under the leadership of erdoğan, there was a centralization of powers in the hands of the president, especially after the failed 2016 coup and the 2017 constitutional reform that turned the country into a presidential republic. Erdogan got like this sideline Parliamentcontrol the press and the judiciary and impose their economic policies, which, however, were disastrous for the country.
The strengthening of the figure of the president also coincided with a more assertive foreign policy to convert Turkey, a member country of the NATO, in a regional power capable of influencing the geopolitical tableau in the Middle East and other parts of the planet. A project also supported by the constant increase in military spending and the expansion of the war industrywhich has become a foreign policy tool.
Very different is the project of kilicdaroglu and the Table of Six, summarized in the motto “Law, law, justice” (hak, hukuk, adalet) shouted by the crowds during their election rallies. One of the first objectives is to return to the parliamentary systemwhich would be accompanied by the protection of civil liberties and policies, the end of government control over the media and the judiciary, and the restoration of the independence of the Central bank.
All measures considered essential to return Turkey to the path of democracy and heal the social fracture that has widened under Erdogan’s presidency. In the economic planethe opposition has promised to abandon the ruling party model, based on exchange rates held down by force to preserve economic growth, but which has led to a constant increase in prices; while in foreign policy a more conciliatory position with the West is expected.
On the other hand, it is not yet clear how the program of the Table of Six will be applied. The coalition is made up of very different parties, so many observers fear the possibility of clashes and divisions.
a symbolic date
The day chosen for the elections is not accidental. On May 14, 1950, the Demokrat Parti The conservative-oriented Adnan Menderes won the elections for the first time, defeating the CHD, the party founded by the founder of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (literally Father of the Turks).
In Erdoğan’s plans, on May 14, 2023, the Turkish people will again say “enough” to the secular ideals of the kemalists and he will again support those, like him, who defended the religious and conservative values that Menderes had first brought to government 73 years earlier. However, his dream may not come true.
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