2023 Turkish General Election Guide: What You Need to Know

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In Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces an unprecedented challenge that could end his 20-year rule.

Less than three months after the February 6 earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people in southern Turkey and northern Syria and displaced more than 5.9 million, voters will decide the fate of Turkish democracy.

The elections also come amid a deep economic crisis, with analysts saying democracy is being eroded under Erdogan.

Analysts said this year’s record turnout was a close match between Erdogan and main opposition candidate Kemal Kirikdaroglu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and presidential candidate of the Six-Party National Alliance bloc. I expect it to be

More than 1.8 million voters living abroad had already cast their ballots on April 17, Turkish newspaper Daily Saba reported on Wednesday, citing the country’s deputy foreign minister.

Demographics in Turkey are also expected to have an impact. Most of the provinces hit by the February quake were home to President Erdogan and his AK party. But Ahmet Jener, head of the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK), said last month that at least one million voters in the affected areas are expected not to vote this year because of the displacement.

And even if Kirikdaroglu wins the election, Erdogan won’t pass power to his successor without a struggle, some analysts say.

Here’s what you need to know about what could be a pivotal moment in Turkey’s modern history.

Elections are held in Turkey every five years. A presidential candidate is nominated by a party that exceeded the 5% vote threshold in the last parliamentary election, or that gathered at least 100,000 signatures in support of the nomination.

The candidate who receives 50% or more of the votes on the first ballot is elected president, but if no candidate receives a majority of the votes, the election will go to the person who received the most votes on the first ballot 2 move to the second round of voting among the candidates.

Parliamentary elections are held at the same time as presidential elections. Turkey has a proportional representation system in its parliament, meaning that the number of seats won by each party in the 600-seat parliament is directly proportional to the number of votes it wins.

To enter parliament, a party must win at least 7% of the vote, either alone or in concert with another party.

Voting takes place on Sunday, with candidates voting in both elections at the same time. If there is a second presidential vote, it will be held on May 28.

Voting opens at 8:00 AM local time (1:00 AM ET) and ends at 5:00 PM (10:00 AM ET). Results are expected to be announced after 9 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET).

The candidates for this year’s presidential election were narrowed to three candidates on Thursday after Muharrem Ince withdrew from the race.

Apart from Erdogan and Kirikdaroglu, right-wing Ancestors League candidate Sinan Ogan is also running.

Centrist Fatherland Party leader Inse said he had withdrawn after a “dread campaign” against him. He has faced vile charges on social media in Turkey for weeks, and the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office said Thursday it had opened an investigation into possible extortion.

But his party, the Motherland, will remain in parliamentary elections.

The 59-year-old ran for the 2018 presidential election but lost to Erdogan. He stepped out of the CHP led by Kirikdaroglu in March to join the presidential race. He initially rejected calls from his former party to withdraw because he feared it would steal votes from Erdogan’s rivals.

Ince does not endorse the remaining candidates and his name will remain on the ballot. His departure could be a boost for Kirikudarogur.

A member of parliament representing the CHP since 2002, Kirikda Rogul, 74, climbed the political ladder the same year Erdogan’s AK party seized power, becoming the party’s seventh chairman in 2010. was appointed to

Born in Kurdish-majority Tunceli province in the east, the party’s leader ran for Turkey in the 2011 general election but lost, coming in second to President Erdogan and his AK party.

Mr. Kilicdaroglu represents the party founded 100 years ago by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of modern Turkey and a hardcore secularist. He stands in stark contrast to Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted party and its conservative base.

But despite his secular leanings, the opposition candidate and his alliance have vowed to represent all factions of Turkish society, which analysts say has been demonstrated in his diverse coalitions.

In response to Inse’s withdrawal from the campaign, Kirikdaroglu on Friday accused Russia of interfering in the campaign.

“Dear Russian friends, you are behind the montages, conspiracies, deepfake content and tapes exposed in our country yesterday,” he said on Twitter. “If you want to continue our friendship after May 15th, please keep your hands off the Turkish state. We still stand for cooperation and friendship.”

At a press conference, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected the accusations, calling those who spread such rumors “liars.”

“Russia will not interfere in other countries’ internal affairs or in the electoral process,” Peskov said. “We attach great importance to our bilateral relations with Turkey, because the Republic of Turkey has been a very responsible and sovereign nation on all regional and global issues facing us. As a person, I have taken a well-thought-out position.”

Turkey, the NATO member with the second-largest military, has strengthened its ties with Russia in recent years. In 2019, he rebelled against the United States and purchased weapons from the country.

Erdoğan has raised eyebrows in the West by maintaining close ties with Russia, which continues to attack Ukraine, and has given headaches to NATO expansion plans by delaying the joining of Finland and Sweden.

When U.S. ambassador to Ankara Jeff Flake visited Kirikdaroglu in March, President Erdogan called the U.S. diplomat’s visit a “shame” and lashed out at him, saying Turkey “will teach the U.S. a lesson in this election.” ” warned that there is a need.

Analysts say a U-turn in Turkey’s foreign policy is not taken for granted, even if Erdogan is ousted in the polls. Sources close to the opposition have suggested that an opposition victory would steer Turkey back toward the West, but some say the core foreign policy issue is likely to remain the same.

But Turkey was also beneficial to its Western allies under Erdogan. Last year, Ankara helped broker a groundbreaking grain export deal between Ukraine and Russia, and even provided Ukraine with drones that helped counter Russian aggression.

High on voters’ list of concerns is the economic situation and the damage caused by the earthquake. Even before the February disaster, Turkey had been struggling with rising prices and a currency crisis, with inflation reaching 85% in October.

This affects the people’s purchasing power, which is “the fundamental reason for Erdogan’s decline in popularity,” said Sinan Urgen, a former Turkish diplomat and chairman of Istanbul-based think tank EDAM. “That would be a big handicap for President Erdogan,” he said.

Voters are also voting based on who they think is more capable not only of protecting the country from future disasters, but also of dealing with the effects of an earthquake, analysts said, adding that Erdogan’s popularity has increased. He added that it had not had the political impact it had hoped for.

“There is debate about which electoral platform will provide the appropriate solutions to address these vulnerabilities and make Turkey more resilient to national disasters,” Urgen said.

Aside from the government’s response to the economy and Turkey’s frequent natural disasters, voters are likely to be concerned that Erdogan will turn away from democracy, a move the opposition has sought to reverse. .

Some analysts say if Mr. Erdogan loses the vote by a narrow margin, he will be more likely to challenge the result.

And if past experience is the yardstick, the president and his AK party may not accept defeat silently.

During the 2019 mayoral elections in Istanbul and Ankara, the AK party lost control of the country’s financial hub and capital, and party officials in both cities rejected the results, citing voter fraud.

The CHP’s lead in Istanbul was particularly narrow, and in the end the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) decided to support a re-run, which the opposition strongly opposed.

Then CHP Istanbul mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamor won re-election, dealing a blow to Erdogan.

Urgen has questioned YSK’s independence and said it could yield to a potential recount request. He said the body will be the final arbiter of the race.

A Freedom House 2023 report said that YSK judges, who oversee all voting procedures, are “appointed by judicial bodies led by the AKP and often follow the AKP in decisions.” The Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group said the AK Party’s “institutional dominance” in the media and other sectors of society also “tipped the electoral field in Erdogan’s favor.”

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