All Eyes on Turkey’s Elections

On Sunday, Turkish voters will participate in a second round of voting that will determine whether President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains in power. This election is critical because it is his most crucial test since his party won a large election in 2002.

Tens of millions of people exercised their right to vote on May 14. Erdogan received 49% of the vote, while opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu received just 45%. However, since no one received more than 50% of the vote, a second round of voting was required.

There is a lot on the line. Despite Erdogan’s rising hostility toward criticism, Turkey’s reputation as a regional and international power broker has expanded significantly throughout his tenure, and the election results were widely observed across the Middle East and beyond. The information that follows is critical.

Kilicdaroglu is the presidential candidate of a coalition of six anti-Erdogan parties. In 2010, a 74-year-old retired government worker and longstanding Republican People’s Party (CHP) member took over as party leader. Despite the fact that Erdogan and the AKP have always won elections, he utilized social media well during this campaign to reacquaint people with him. However, with a more confident Erdogan in command of the state’s institutions and the bulk of the country’s media supporting the present president, the opposition seems unlikely to win the election.

Kilicdaroglu’s party is banking on defections to help them win municipal elections in crucial cities in 2019. This is particularly true in Istanbul, where Erdogan’s candidacy was defeated by Ekrem Imamoglu, a popular CHP member.

Kilicdaroglu is a rising political star, and the CHP mayor of Ankara, Mansur Yavas, has been picked as his presidential running partner. Imamoglu was sentenced to more than two years in prison by a court for insulting state authorities. The case against him was political in nature. He will be unable to run for public office if the sentence is upheld.

Within his alliance, which includes nationalists, Islamists, secularists, and liberals, Kilicdaroglu would have to cope with a variety of interests. This is true despite the fact that Turkey’s opposition factions, who are notoriously turbulent, have been able to keep their differences hidden in the run-up to this election.

Kilicdaroglu has committed to address growing living costs, safeguard gender equality, and strengthen the rule of law by modernizing the court. Some believe the administration has been using the courts to target opponents, which has harmed Erdogan.

Kilicdaroglu also said that he will reinstate the parliamentary system of government, which would restore the role of the prime minister while limiting the president’s authority.

Sweden, whose intentions to join NATO have been halted due to Erdogan’s actions, has devoted the most attention to the Turkish race of any European nation.

However, Erdogan continues to block Sweden’s accession to the EU by claiming that Stockholm would not give over “terrorists” from the militant Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkey agreed in March to allow Finland to join NATO. NATO’s territorial border with Russia now includes one additional countries.

Unal Cevikoz, Kilicdaroglu’s chief foreign policy adviser, told Politico in March that the Turkish leader would not oppose Sweden’s desire to join NATO. “By bringing your bilateral problems into a multilateral organization like NATO, you create some kind of polarization with all of NATO’s other members and your country,” he said.

Kilicdaroglu has vowed to improve relations between Turkey and the European Union. He has suggested that stalled membership discussions be restarted, and he has emphasized the need of strengthening economic connections and cooperating on migration and refugees.

Since President Bashar al-Assad forcefully suppressed uprisings in 2011, at least 4 million Syrian refugees and individuals seeking asylum have fled to Turkey. Turkey’s lengthy border with Syria makes it an obvious destination for individuals fleeing al-Assad’s bombardment and starvation.

When Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Turkey volunteered to assist. It undertook preliminary diplomacy meetings between Moscow and Kiev, but they were terminated as the situation worsened. Russia halted grain shipments last summer, but a United Nations-mediated agreement allowed them to resume.

Erdogan, who is always juggling many priorities, has prevented the West from imposing sanctions on Russia while permitting drones used to attack Russian sites during the conflict to be transported to Ukraine. Despite his promise to visit Turkey’s first nuclear power plant in April, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the conference via video connection. However, Turkey has continued to purchase Russian oil since March.

Kilicdaroglu has vowed to showcase Ankara’s NATO membership while also ensuring that Turkey-Russia relations remain “sound and credible.” This entails continuing to play the role of negotiator and attempting to prolong the grain contract.

[Photo by Astro medya Org. Ltd. ŞTİ., CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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