Voters in Turkey voted yesterday in a crucial presidential election that could end outgoing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule after twenty years in power. Opinion polls show Erdogan’s archrival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who leads a coalition of six opposition parties, has a narrow lead.
However, if one of them does not get more than 50 percent of the votes, the second round will take place on May 28.
While Erdogan expressed hope that the election results would be “good for the country’s future”, Kılıçdaroğlu said that Turkey was “seeking democracy”.
According to Turkish electoral law, the results cannot be announced until 21:00, but by Sunday evening there could be a good indication of whether a second round of presidential elections will take place.
The vote will decide not only who will lead Turkey, a NATO member of 85 million people, but also how it will be governed, where the country’s economy is heading in the face of a deepening cost-of-living crisis, and the shape of its foreign policy, which has taken unexpected turns.
Kurdish voters, who make up 15-20 percent of the electorate, will play a key role, and the Alliance of Nations is unlikely to win a parliamentary majority on its own.
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) is not part of the main opposition alliance but strongly opposes Erdogan after cracking down on its members in recent years.
The party has declared its support for Kılıçdaroğlu and is running in the parliamentary elections under the banner of the Small Green Left Party due to a lawsuit filed by a senior prosecutor to ban the HDP because of its links to Kurdish militants, which the party denies.
Voters will also elect a new parliament, and there is likely to be an intense race between the People’s Alliance, made up of Erdogan’s Islamist-conservative Justice and Development Party, the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party and others, and the Kılıçdaroğlu Nation Alliance, made up of six opposition parties. including the Republican People’s Party, founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey.
Briefly about Erdogan
Erdogan, 69, is a strong orator who enjoys strong loyalty from devout Turks who at one point felt disenfranchised in secular Turkey. His political life has survived the 2016 coup attempt and several corruption scandals. However, if the Turks overthrow him, it will be mainly because they have witnessed their well-being, equality and ability to meet basic needs deteriorated with an inflation rate exceeding 85 percent in October 2022, along with the collapse of the lira.
Klichdar in brief
Kilicdaroglu, 74, is a former civil servant who seeks to return the country to a parliamentary system of government, away from Erdogan’s executive presidential system, adopted in a 2017 referendum.
He also promised to restore the independence of the judiciary, which critics say Erdogan used to stifle dissent.
If Kılıçdaroğlu wins, he will find it difficult to maintain a united opposition coalition that includes nationalists, Islamists, secularists and liberals.