Turkish national flag waving on a ship

Turkish elections could end two decades of Erdogan in power

This Sunday, 14 May 2023, more than 64 million Turks are called to vote in Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections. These elections are held every five years and should have been held on 18 June, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan brought them forward. This Sunday, 14 May 2023, elections could bring an end to the two-decade-long authoritarian political project of Turkey’s president.

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Twelve polls published since April point to a victory for the opposition to the current government, headed by Kemal Kiliçdaroglu. Of these polls, only five give him an absolute majority, which would avoid a run-off election two weeks later.

Kiliçdaroglu has the explicit backing of six parties, including his own, the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP); the nationalist IYI and four smaller parties, ranging from liberals to Islamists. And it is possible that he will also win the vote of the Kurdish left.

Faced with this prospect, Erdogan vowed to defend the country’s “independence and future” just as he did in 2016 when he was the target of a failed military coup d’état.

“If necessary, just as we did on the night of 15 July 2016, we will defend our independence and our future, even with our lives,” he said on Twitter, adding: “No matter what trap they put in front of us, we will not stop serving our country.”

Analysts, as well as the opposition, have warned that Erdogan, faced with an election defeat, may resist recognising the result, as his party, the AKP, did when it lost the Istanbul mayoralty in 2019.

However, Erdogan himself has assured on Friday that he will respect the result if he loses the elections and hand over power in accordance with the rules of democracy, which would allay fears.

As of this week, a new shadow hangs over the elections. Kiliçdaroglu has claimed that his party has concrete evidence of “Russian interference” in the Turkish elections. In particular, he accuses Russia of spreading manipulated content on the internet against him and in favour of Erdogan. For its part, the Kremlin denies this allegation.

Erdoğan, 69, has been in power for more than 20 years. He is the leader of the Justice and Development Party, better known as AKP, its Turkish acronym.

Kılıçdaroğlu, 74, is the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), with which he has so far failed to win any of the elections in Turkey in which he has stood as a candidate.

Polls suggest that Kılıçdaroğlu could win and wrest power from Erdoğan after more than two decades in power. Turkey is an important country on the geopolitical chessboard, so any change in power would have global repercussions. It is the connecting point between Asia and Europe and its ties with Russia have been key to unlocking, for example, Ukraine’s grain exports in the context of the war. Turkey is also the 19th largest economy in the world in terms of GDP.

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Erdogan and his party have won every election since 2002, although since 2018 their majority in parliament has depended on the support of an ultra-nationalist formation. The president won that year’s presidential election with 53 per cent, and now the most favourable polls give him less than 49 per cent.

-Thailand News (TN)

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