Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled on Sunday will have President Recep Tayyip Erdogan facing unprecedented challenges that could end his two-decade rule, reported CNN.
Polls show Erdogan trailing behind the main opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu. If neither of the candidates wins more than 50 per cent of the vote to secure an outright win, there will be a run-off on May 28. Voters will decide the fate of Turkey’s democracy less than three months after a February 6 earthquake killed more than 50,000 people and displaced more than 5.9 million across southern Turkey and northern Syria.
The elections also take place amid a serious economic crisis and what analysts say is democratic erosion under Erdogan’s government, reported CNN.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held his last election rallies in Istanbul on Saturday, before a so-called propaganda ban went into effect, accusing the opposition of working with US President Joe Biden to topple him while making a final appeal in the run-up to the biggest challenge to his 20-year rule.
One of his talking points has been that the opposition is receiving orders from the West and that they will bow down to Western nations’ wishes if elected. At a rally in Istanbul, Erdogan also recalled comments made by Biden, and published by the New York Times in January 2020, when he was campaigning for the White House.
Analysts predict a record voter turnout this year, and a tight race between Erdogan and the main opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and presidential nominee for the six-party Nation Alliance bloc.
More than 1.8 million voters living abroad already cast their votes on April 17, the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah reported Wednesday, citing the country’s deputy foreign minister.
Turkey’s demographics are also expected to play a role. Most of the provinces struck by the February earthquake were strongholds of Erdogan and his AK Party. But Supreme Election Council (YSK) chief Ahmet Yener said last month that at least 1 million voters in quake-stricken zones are expected not to vote this year amid displacement.
And even if Kilicdaroglu wins the election, some analysts say Erdogan may not hand over power to his successor without a struggle, reported CNN.
Apart from Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu, right-wing Ancestral Alliance candidate Sinan Ogan is also running.
Centrist Homeland Party leader Ince said he had withdrawn following a “slander campaign” against him. He has faced weeks of lurid allegations on social media in Turkey and the Ankara public prosecutor’s office said Thursday it had opened an investigation into potential blackmail.
His party, Homeland, will however remain in the parliamentary race.
The 59-year-old ran for president in 2018 but lost against Erdogan. In March this year, he broke away from Kilicdaroglu’s CHP and joined the presidential race. He initially rebuffed calls by his former party to pull out amid concern that he’d take votes away from Erdogan’s rival.
Ince did not endorse any of the remaining candidates; his name will also remain on the ballot. His withdrawal is a potential boost to Kilicdaroglu.
Some analysts say that if Erdogan loses the vote by a small margin, it opens up the possibility for him to contest the results. And if past experience is a gauge, the president and his AK Party may not take a defeat lying down, reported CNN.