In 2023, Turkey will have presidential and parliamentary elections that will determine the country’s future. Erdogan faces a strong challenge as a six-party coalition of opposition parties seeks to depose him.
Background to the Elections
After a controversial referendum in 2017, the country transitioned from a parliamentary system to a presidential form of government. In the 2018 presidential elections, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected president in a controversial election.
Under Erdogan, emphasis was placed on Islam, and many believed that the secular fabric of the Turkish nation was being undermined. This culminated in the turning of the Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque. Hagia Sophia was once a church that was converted into a mosque.
Many have argued that Erdogan is erasing the Kemalist legacy of the country and consolidating his personal power, with many changes to the constitution and purges since 2016.
Under Erdogan, the Turkish economy has been in a crisis since 2018, with large-scale inflation, and the economy has been a major issue in the campaign. Another issue is the 2023 Turkish earthquake, which killed over 50,000 people. The Erdogan government was criticised for being slow in its relief efforts.
The Election Campaign
President Erdogan, Image Source: Reuters
Erdogan’s party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP in Turkish), ran in an alliance with four other parties, including the Nationalist Movement Party. The alliance is called the People’s Alliance.
The main opposition is the Nation Alliance, which is made up of six parties and is led by the Republican People’s Party (CHP in Turkish), with their candidate being Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. The alliance has committed itself to the restoration of the previous parliamentary system and has garnered outside support from other parties as well.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Image Source: Getty Images
An independent candidate from the Sinan Ogan also ran for the Ancestral Alliance but stopped campaigning midway through the season.
Controversies in the Election Campaign
The ruling coalition has referred to the opposition parties as being backed by the Western LGBTQ lobby and has made derisive comments on the same. They claim that the opposition will sell out Turkey to western interests. A minister even claimed that an opposition victory would be a coup d’etat.
The opposition has claimed that media coverage has been extremely biassed towards Erdogan and his allies, with 90% of media coverage focused on their campaign. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was attacked and heckled by mobs while he was campaigning.
The opposition vice presidential candidate and Istanbul Mayor Ekrem was attacked with stones while he was going to a rally in Erzurum. The opposition parties have claimed that the ruling parties are preventing rallies and spreading misinformation through state-controlled media.
The first round of voting was held on May 14, and with 98% of the ballots opened, no alliance was able to cross the 50% mark.
Erdogan and the People’s Alliance won 49.3% of the vote.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and the Nation Alliance won 45% of the vote.
The other candidates won 5.6% of the vote.
Since no candidate was able to win over 50% of the vote, a runoff election between Erdogan and Kemal will take place on May 28.
Voting Patterns, Image Source: Randam through Wikipedia
The 2023 Turkish Presidential Election is a turning point for both Erdogan and Turkey. With a neck-and-neck race, it will determine whether Erdogan’s vision for the country has the popular mandate or not. The conservative-liberal split is also visible in the voting patterns, with Erdogan enjoying popularity in the conservative countryside and the opposition dominating the more liberal cities.