Home Geopolitics Turkey’s Election: Crucial Implications for the Middle East and Beyond

Turkey’s Election: Crucial Implications for the Middle East and Beyond

©Paul Morigi Photography | H.E. Recep Tayvip Erdogan, the longest serving Prime Minister of Turkey, speaks about his twelve years in office and the Turkish role in the international community (May 17, 2013)

On May 14, Turkey will hold presidential elections that will determine the country’s future direction. The incumbent president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will face three challengers: Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Muharrem Ince, and Sinan Ogan. While Ince and Ogan are minor candidates, Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition CHP party, is seen as Erdogan’s main challenger. He heads a broad coalition of six parties, the Alliance of the Nation.

One of the key factors in the upcoming election is the support of the pro-Kurdish HDP party. The party has not put forward a candidate of its own, but its supporters are expected to vote for Kilicdaroglu. In the past, the HDP has been targeted by Erdogan’s government, which accused it of supporting Kurdish separatists. The HDP’s decision to support Kilicdaroglu is a significant development that could tip the balance in the election.

Ince, who founded his own party, the Motherland Party, is also running for president. He is not expected to win but could play a spoiler role. In the 2018 presidential election, he received about 30 percent of the vote, and his party has attracted support from voters who do not feel at home with either the AKP or the CHP. His candidacy could split the opposition vote, making it harder for Kilicdaroglu to win in the first round.

A candidate must achieve an absolute majority to win in the first round. If no one succeeds, a second round follows two weeks later, on May 28. Because Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu are close in the polls, the few percentage points of votes that go to Ince could ensure that a second round is needed.

The recent earthquakes in Turkey are also a significant factor in the election campaign. Erdogan has refrained from holding major rallies and announced that he would not use music in his campaign out of respect for the victims. Instead, he has focused on visiting the earthquake area and emphasizing the need for rapid reconstruction. However, this has not yet translated into increased support for Erdogan. In most reliable polls, Kilicdaroglu is ahead by a few percentage points.

As Erdogan seeks a third term in office, he faces challenges from the opposition and within his own party. In recent years, his government has faced accusations of corruption and a declining economy. Erdogan’s response has been to tighten his grip on power, leading to an increase in authoritarian tendencies.

Erdogan has focused on forming alliances with smaller parties to secure support for his re-election. His People’s Alliance’s main parties are his AKP and the right-wing nationalist MHP. Two other parties have joined the alliance recently: Hüda-Par and the New Prosperity Party.

The New Prosperity Party is a conservative Islamist party that aims to restrict women’s rights. Hüda-Par, on the other hand, is a radical Islamic Kurdish party that is related to Hezbollah, an armed Kurdish movement that was responsible for assassinations and other violent actions in the 1990s.

While the opposition has never been more united against Erdogan, the election’s outcome is far from certain. Erdogan’s government has already announced a reduction in energy bills and an increase in the minimum wage, which could attract support from some voters.

The election is crucial for Turkey, the wider region, and the world. Turkey is a key player in the Middle East and has been involved in conflicts in Syria, Libya, and Azerbaijan. The election outcome will affect these conflicts and Turkey’s relationship with other countries, including the United States and the European Union.

Erdogan’s government has been criticized for its human rights record and a crackdown on dissent. The opposition has promised to restore democracy and the rule of law if they come to power. Kilicdaroglu has pledged to undo Erdogan’s constitutional changes that gave him sweeping new powers as president. Ince has promised to improve Turkey’s relations with the EU and to strengthen democratic institutions.

Despite the challenges, Turkey remains a vibrant democracy with a lively political scene. The election campaign has seen lively debates and rallies, and voters are engaged and passionate about the future of their country. The outcome of the election will reflect the will of the Turkish people and will shape the country’s future for years to come.