October 5, 2023

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Türkiye votes again, as Erdogan prepares to extend his rule – POLITICO

Türkiye votes again, as Erdogan prepares to extend his rule – POLITICO

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Turkey heads to the polls on Sunday in one of the world’s most important elections this year, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan well-positioned to extend his grip on power.

He faces Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of an opposition coalition, who underperformed pollsters’ expectations in the first round on May 14.

Erdogan, who since 2003 has served first as prime minister and then as head of state, has the clear upper hand in what has been a deeply polarized competition, playing out against the backdrop of the devastation caused by Turkey’s massive earthquake in February.

“The advantages of Erdogan’s incumbency allowed him to advance in the first round and the same advantages will help him reach the finish line,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The main topic of the tight race was the country’s economic problems due to Erdoğan’s unorthodox policies that have led to soaring inflation and a depreciating currency.

Erdogan’s critics also say he has undermined democracy in his country and portray Sunday’s election as a stop on the road to more authoritarian rule.

The president won the first round with 49.5 percent and 27 million votes – 2.5 million more than his rival. The AKP-led coalition also secured control of the Turkish parliament.

In the aftermath of the first round, in which Kılıçdaroğlu scored 45 percent, the opposition leader took a turn toward more nationalist politics, striking a deal with far-right politician Umit Özdag, the head of the Victory Party, and promising to deport millions of Syrian and Afghan refugees from Syria. turkey.

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But Kilicdaroglu proved unable to win the support of the main nationalist candidate, Sinan Ogan, who came in third place with 5 percent of the vote and who endorsed Erdogan instead.

Despite the opposition’s nationalism, Selahattin Demirtas, a jailed Kurdish politician, called on voters to support Kilicdaroglu in the second round.

If there is no change from the ballot box, it will be a disaster for the economy and democracy. There is no third round of this business anymore. Let’s make Mr. Kilicdaroglu president, and let Turkey breathe,” he said in a tweet.

Some analysts said the results of the first round reflected the enduring appeal of Erdogan’s populist and Islamist-rooted policies, particularly in Turkey’s rural areas, which have remained more loyal to the AKP than the country’s largest cities, and which are increasingly turning against the long-running government. president.

Opposition Turkish Coalition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu performed below opinion polls’ expectations in the first round of the May 14 elections | Can Erok/AFP via Getty Images

Critics worry that under Erdogan’s rule Turkey’s relations with the West may weaken further and that the independence of the country’s media, judiciary and other institutions will deteriorate even more sharply.

Cagaptay of The Washington Institute said Erdogan was helped by his “total control over the flow of information” in Turkey. Business groups close to the president control much of the media, and about 80 percent of Turks only read the news in their own language.

He can ‘nurture’ reality for them,” said Chagaptay. “He can portray some of the opposition as ‘supported’ by terrorists, and I think that’s where part of the electorate got stuck – they never got to the point of who would run Turkey better.”