electionsTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (69) after casting his ballot on Sunday expressed hope that the outcome of historic presidential and parliamentary elections will be “good for the future of the country”, but did not predict victory.
“My hope before God is that once the counts are finished tonight, the result will be good for the future of our country, for Turkish democracy,” Erdogan said this morning at a polling station in Istanbul. The election promises to be a neck and neck race between Erdogan and Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP). The 74-year-old presidential candidate from the main opposition alliance cast his ballot at a polling station in Ankara.
In Turkey, 64.2 million voters are allowed to go to the polls today. If no candidate obtains an absolute majority (more than 50% of the votes), a second round will take place in two weeks. THE 600vekil, a weighted poll of all Turkish polls combined, predicted Kılicdaroglu’s chances of victory on Saturday at 63% to Erdogan’s 35%. Polls in recent days increasingly suggest that Erdogan’s coalition government, led by his Justice and Development Party (AKP), could lose its majority in parliament.
Experts say Erdogan faces the toughest challenge in two decades. He has held the presidency since 2014. His AKP, or Justice and Development Party, entered the Turkish political scene in 2002 and was immediately declared the winner of the elections. Since then, the right-wing conservative party has consistently won the lion’s share of the vote.
Erdogan, who started his political career mainly as mayor of Istanbul, served as the country’s prime minister between 2003 and 2014. After that, he was elected president. Since the 2017 constitutional referendum, which Erdogan conducted, the post of prime minister has disappeared and the president therefore has more power.
The CHP party of Kilicdaroglu is part of the “Nation Alliance”. This bloc consists of six opposition parties which, although they disagree on many points, have united in the hope of defeating Erdogan. The opposition coalition is fighting both for the presidency and for a parliamentary majority so that it can carry out sweeping reforms and return Turkey to parliamentary democracy.
Kilicdaroglu’s CHP, which has led the opposition since 2010, was founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Like Atatürk, Kilicdaroglu also emphasizes secular Turkey. Moreover, the Alliance of Nations also wants to move towards a more western course and insists on the restoration of democracy, returning to the parliamentary system with a prime minister, among others.
Still, the 74-year-old politician was not chosen as Erdogan’s challenger without a fight. Initially, the bloc’s second largest party, the IYI, opposed the nomination. This party preferred to see two other members of the CHP as candidates, namely Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu of Istanbul and Mayor Mansur Yavas of Ankara. Eventually, the IYI backtracked after promising to promote both mayors to “vice-presidents” if they won. The internal vilification shows the division of the opposition, which has been trying for years to break Erdogan’s hegemony.
However, Erdogan has had to take a few hits lately. The earthquake that shook much of Turkey and Syria in late February – with more than 50,000 dead in Turkey – and the government’s slow response to the disaster have drawn widespread criticism. Turkey’s economy is also not doing well with an inflation rate that broke a 24-year high last fall.
Nevertheless, the “modern sultan” has tightened his grip on the country in recent years. For example, the biggest media brands are controlled by people closely linked to the AK party, the Reuters news agency found. In addition, strict government control of social media is also possible thanks to a controversial law, which gives authorities the possibility of censorship. Erdogan is also asserting himself on the foreign scene.
In addition to the two blocs of Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu, there is a third alliance in the running, but according to the polls this bloc is doing much worse than the other two. While Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu have exceeded winners’ expectations in the polls in recent weeks, more recent polls seem to point in the latter’s direction.
If no one gets more than fifty percent of voters behind them, a second round of voting will follow on May 28. 3.4 million Turks abroad were able to vote earlier. In the Netherlands, this was possible in Amsterdam, The Hague, Deventer and Eindhoven.
According to most polls, Erdogan is right behind Kilicdaroglu. Even if he says himself that he expects to be re-elected. Otherwise, he promises to cede power peacefully. Polling stations are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time. The first results are expected in the next few hours.
GroenLinks MP leads international observers
MP Farah Karimi (GroenLinks) leads the international election observation mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE). As the elections approach, she says, there have already been a number of signals that they are not entirely free and fair. “It’s a big problem.”
As an example, she cites the earthquakes in the country, which displaced millions of Turks earlier this year. Only about 300,000 people have since registered in another constituency. “We don’t have the exact number of displaced people, but there are many more.”
Turks must reside in the region where they wish to vote. “If the displaced people want to exercise their right to vote after the earthquake, they have to return to the earthquake affected areas and the government has not provided any facilities for this,” Karimi said. “So in fact, it’s impossible for hundreds of thousands to exercise their right to vote.”
Free and unlimited access to Showbytes? That can!
Log in or create an account and don’t miss anything from the stars.
“Infuriatingly humble social media ninja. Devoted travel junkie. Student. Avid internet lover.”