Less than 24 hours: 61 million Turks scattered across 87 provinces will go to the polls tomorrow and participate in elections that may be dramatic and bring to an end the reign of the incumbent president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turks will decide the fate of democracy in the country, less than three months after the deadly earthquake that struck the country last February, killing more than 50 thousand people. At the same time, the elections are also taking place in the shadow of the economic crisis, and what political analysts have already described as the “erosion” of democracy under Erdogan’s rule.
Meanwhile, according to all the polls and analyses, the battle this year is extremely close, between Erdogan and the opposition candidate Kamal Kilichderoulou, the leader of the Republican People’s Party, and the presidential candidate on behalf of the six-party National Alliance bloc. So far, almost two million Turks living abroad have already voted, while at the same time the demographics of the country may play a decisive role. For example, most of the provinces affected by the earthquake are considered to be distinct strongholds of Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), but according to estimates, About a million citizens living in those areas are expected not to go to the polls.
Turkey: A sign in support of Kemal Kilicderoulu (Photo: Getty Images)
Kamal Kilichderoulou (Photo: REUTERS/Murad Sezer)
As mentioned, the main contender against Erdoğan in the presidential elections is Kemal Kilicderoğlu, who represents the Republican Party (CHP) that was established about a hundred years ago by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of modern Turkey, and whose legacy is identified more than anything with the secularization and modernization campaign of The Turkish people. This is in complete contrast to Erdogan’s party, which is rooted in Islamist and conservative ideology.
Erdogan gained a lot of popularity during his first decade as leader, for turning Turkey into an economic and political success story, before the current crises, but in recent years, the president has faced sharp criticism, both domestically and internationally, for severe damage to freedom of expression and the enactment of laws that characterize autocratic regimes. On the other hand, his opponent, Kamal, represents the secular social-democratic current, and emphasized throughout the campaign messages of freedom and democracy. The opposition alliance he represents has promised to cancel constitutional changes introduced after the 2017 referendum, which significantly expanded the powers of the presidency, and to return the parliamentary system to the way it existed before.
Supporters of President Erdogan (Photo: Vertical)
At the same time, both candidates know very well that the most important issue that is at the top of every voter’s list of priorities is the economic situation. Political analysts in Turkey stated that voters will vote for whoever they believe will save the economy and fight rising prices, inflation and the erosion of the currency. Also, the public will vote for who they think is able to manage the damage caused by the earthquake in a better way, and also who will know how to protect the country in case of future natural disasters. Apart from that, in various studies conducted in the country, most voters are concerned about Erdogan’s actions against democracy – something that the opposition, as mentioned, promised to act against.
Who is expected to win? Only four days before the elections, he announced unexpectedly Muharram Incha, for his decision to withdraw his candidacy from running for president. The move may be fatal for Erdogan, as it increases the chances of the opposition candidate, Kilicderoulu, to win the election, possibly already in the first round of voting.
In the meantime, last week about 20 polls were conducted in the country, which were conducted by 17 different research and public opinion institutes, which presented a worrying picture for Erdogan’s party, here is a summary of the polls:
In a survey conducted by the SER-AR institute, Kilicderoulu leads with 52.7% compared to Erdogan, who received only 44.3% in this survey. In the survey by the ORC Institute for Research, Kilicderoulu leads with 48%, and Erdogan is behind him with 44.6%, in the survey by the TEAM Institute, the leader of the opposition again leads with 47.4% compared to Erdogan, who receives only 44.4% in this survey. At the same time, also in the poll of the Artibir Research Institute, Kilicderoulu leads with 49.4%, compared to Erdogan who received 43.7%. Of all the polls, Erdogan leads over his opponent, in only one poll, conducted by the Optimar research institute, where the incumbent president received 48.6%, compared to the opposition leader who received only 44.1%.
The average of the 17 polls conducted throughout Turkey shows a clear victory for the opposition candidate, Kemal Kilicderoulu, as he leads with 48.9%, compared to Erdogan with only 48.5%.
Elections in Turkey are held once every five years, when those who wish to run in the presidential elections have to meet strict criteria. Among other things, the party in which he is running must pass the 5% threshold in the last elections held, or collect 100,000 signatures supporting his candidacy for the presidency. After the polls close, a candidate who gets more than 50% in the first round is elected president. If no candidate receives the majority of votes, a second round is held between the two candidates who received the highest number of votes.