- Years of economic crisis have eroded Erdogan’s support
- Erdogan’s loss may return Türkiye to its secular, democratic past
- Opinion polls give opposition leader Kilicdaroglu a slight lead
- Erdogan is an accomplished campaigner with a loyal following
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turks will vote on Sunday in one of the most crucial elections in Turkey’s 100-year modern history, which could unseat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after 20 years in power and halt his government’s increasingly authoritarian course.
The vote will decide not only who leads Turkey, a NATO member of 85 million people, but also how it is governed, where its economy is heading amid a deep cost of living crisis, and the shape of its foreign policy that has taken unexpected turns.
Opinion polls give Erdogan’s main rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who heads a coalition of six opposition parties, a slight lead, but if either fails to get more than 50% of the vote, a run-off election will take place on May 28.
The elections take place three months after the earthquakes in southeastern Turkey, which claimed the lives of more than 50 thousand people. Many in the affected counties have expressed anger at the government’s slow initial response, but there is little evidence that the case has changed the way people vote.
Voters will also elect a new parliament, potentially a close race between the People’s Alliance made up of Erdogan’s conservative Islamist Justice and Development Party, the nationalist MHP and others, and Kilicdaroglu’s Nation Alliance of six opposition parties, including the secular CHP . (Republican People’s Party), founded by Türkiye’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Polls will open at 8 am (0500 GMT) and close at 5 pm (1400 GMT). Under Turkish election law, it is forbidden to report any results until 9 p.m. By late Sunday there might be a good indication of whether a presidential run-off will take place.
Kurdish voters, who account for 15-20% of the electorate, will play a pivotal role, and the Nation Alliance is unlikely to gain a parliamentary majority on its own.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party is not part of the main opposition alliance, but it is staunchly opposed to Erdogan after a crackdown on its members in recent years.
The HDP announced its support for Kilicdaroglu in the presidential race. It is entering the parliamentary elections under the banner of the Small Green Left Party due to a lawsuit filed by a senior public prosecutor seeking to ban the HDP due to its links to Kurdish fighters, which the party denies.
the end of the era?
Erdogan, 69, is a powerful orator and leading campaigner who gave his all during the campaign as he struggles to survive his toughest political test. He commands fierce loyalty from Turks who once felt disenfranchised in secular Turkey and his political career has survived a coup attempt in 2016 and several corruption scandals.
However, if the Turks overthrow Erdogan, it will be largely because they have seen their prosperity, equality and ability to meet basic needs, with inflation exceeding 85% in October 2022 and the collapse of the lira currency.
Kilicdaroglu, a 74-year-old former civil servant, promises that if he wins he will return to the traditional economic policies of Erdogan’s heavy-handed administration.
Kilicdaroglu also says he will seek to return the country to a parliamentary system of government, from Erdogan’s executive presidential system passed in a 2017 referendum. He has also promised to restore the independence of the judiciary that critics say Erdogan used to suppress them. opposition.
In his time in power, Erdogan has tightly controlled most of Turkey’s institutions, marginalizing liberals and critics. Human Rights Watch said, in its World Report 2022, that Erdogan’s government has restored Turkey’s human rights record for decades.
If Kilicdaroglu wins, he will face challenges in maintaining a unified opposition coalition of nationalists, Islamists, secularists and liberals.
Written by Alexandra Hudson Editing by Frances Kerry
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