After two decades in power, Turkey’s all-powerful leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to have the upper hand heading into a presidential election on Sunday, analysts say.
Erdogan, 69, has repeatedly survived formidable political crises during his tenure, including mass demonstrations, an attempted military coup, allegations of corruption, a massive influx of refugees from the Syrian civil war, the rise and fall of the Islamic State terror group on the borders of Turkey. inflation that passed 80% by 2022 and a deluge of criticism over his handling of earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people.
“The religious and nationalist right (Turkey) has come out on top (after the first round of voting), led by a leader who vows to make Turkey great again after 20 years as prime minister and president,” Turkish policy expert Tuba Unlu Bilgic wrote in a blog. post for the Center for European Policy Analysis, a think tank.
Tight race in TurkeyRecep Tayyip Erdogan and Kemal Kilicdaroglu go to the presidential second round
Presidential Elections in Turkey: What’s Happening?
- A second round will take place on May 28 between Erdogan and challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu after neither candidate received at least 50% support from Turkey’s 64 million eligible voters in an earlier round. The May 14 elections ended with Erdogan receiving 49.5% of the vote; Kilicdaroglu obtained 44.9%.
Which issues are most important to voters in Turkey’s elections?
- During the election campaign, Erdogan portrayed himself as an ally of Turkey’s Islamists, religious conservatives and nationalists who have opposed the West, strengthened Turkey’s defense industry and cracked down on militant Kurdish separatists. Kilicdaroglu drew attention to Turkey’s economic downfall and the continuing destructive impact of the earthquakes. Both sides benefited from the anti-refugee sentiment.
Why Turkey’s Presidential Vote Resonates Beyond Its Borders
- Turkey is a strategically located NATO ally. Erdogan has increased the country’s diplomatic prominence by, for example, helping broker a grain deal between belligerent Russia and Ukraine and blocking Sweden’s membership of the military organization. He has also eroded Turkey’s democratic institutions, aggressively consolidated his own power and turned the country into one of the world’s largest jailers of journalists. President Joe Biden has described Erdogan as an “autocrat”. Kilicdaroglu, relatively little known outside Turkey, had pledged to promote better relations with the West and return the country to a more secular and democratic path.
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Who will have the lead in the second round of the elections in Turkey on Sunday?
- Ahead of the second round, the momentum seemed to be with Erdogan. Not only did he win more votes than expected in the first round, his right-wing political bloc also won a majority in separate parliamentary elections. Just days before the second round, Sinan Ogan, who placed third in the first round of voting, endorsed Erdogan. An OSCE election observation mission said that while the vote was generally free, Erdogan enjoyed an “undue advantage” due to “restrictions on fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression that prevented the participation of some opposition politicians and parties, as well as civil civil society and independent media.”
If Erdogan wins, what will happen?
- He could rule Turkey until 2029. Daron Acemoglu, an MIT economics professor and co-author of the book Why countries fail: the origins of power, prosperity and povertywrote in a recent op-ed that Erdogan’s success would be “good news for other right-wing populists and strongmen, such as Narendra Modi in India and Donald Trump in the US, who are likely to continue using similar tactics and aggressive nationalist rhetoric to defend their base to animate and deepen the polarization.” Acemoglu added: “With authoritarianism often associated with economic mismanagement, what happens in Turkey will not stay in Turkey.” Erdogan said in an interview this week that Turkey has a “special” and growing relationship with Russia, despite increasing pressure on Ankara to tighten sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
Dig deeper:The fate of the Black Sea grain deal between Ukraine and Russia hangs in the balance