Elections on 14 May: who will triumph in Turkey?

This is no ordinary election: Turkey will vote in a new parliament and a new president on 14 May. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is curently neck and neck with incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the polls. Europe's press is in a state of suspense over whether the opposition alliance will succeed in bringing the long rule of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AK Party to an end.

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Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Challenger not much easier to deal with

The West should not entertain too many illusions that things will be easier if Kiliçdaroglu wins, Lidové noviny warns:

“Kemal Kiliçdaroglu is not as pro-Western as he may seem. Because in addition to representing the CHP founded by Atatürk in these elections, he also wants to reach other voters. So he also has anti-Western and anti-European rhetoric in his arsenal. And after all, the CHP is quite nationalistic. And at the same time he expresses understanding for religion in politics. ... What's more, in foreign policy Erdoğan and Kiliçdaroglu are surprisingly similar.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Power apparatus will outlast defeat

Even if Erdoğan loses the election he'll still have a few aces up his sleeve, warns Turkish journalist Yavuz Baydar in Le Monde:

“Especially if he extends the state of emergency and mobilises the official security apparatus, but also armed supporters, including organised crime groups, all of whom profit just as much from the system of corruption as the business milieus loyal to the government. There are too many circles close to Erdoğan who have no intention of giving up their privileges or standard of living or having to stand trial. ... It is important to stress that if Erdoğan loses the election these co-players of his will remain in the judicial and security systems.”

Gazete Duvar (TR) /

Kurds rooting for Kılıçdaroğlu

The pro-Kurdish HDP, which is running as the Yeşil Sol Parti, has announced its support for Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. In the Kurdish stronghold of Diyarbakır, people are eager for a change of government, reports Gazete Duvar:

“Perhaps the people we talked to looked to Diyarbakır and said with conviction: 'Erdoğan will go'. Of course, they expressed this along with the concern they have in the back of their minds: 'If there is no cheating'. There were those who have been impressed with the way presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu's has conducted himself recently. But the majority is willing to vote for Kılıçdaroğlu as the lesser evil anyway.”

T24 (TR) /

Kılıçdaroğlu's unique campaign

The opposition leader's insistence on wanting to reconcile the people is profoundly important, Osman Kavala, a patron of the arts who has been imprisoned for many years, writes in T24:

“If Kılıçdaroğlu were to be elected, he would be the first state president to enter office with such a mission. The fact that six political parties, that emerged from movements whose ideological lines have led to polarisation in the past, have now worked out a shared agenda to implement the principles of justice and democracy is extremely important for achieving social consensus. This situation can also be viewed as a guarantee for the promise of reconciliation.”

LRT (LT) /

Historic opportunity for CHP

A success for Kılıçdaroğlu would be most unusual in Turkey, LRT stresses:

“From the years under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the 'father of modern Turkey', to the long history in opposition, the party has a complex and interesting history. ... The CHP has not had a president since 1950, a prime minister since 1979, and a speaker of parliament since 1999. If the party performs well in the parliamentary elections, which are taking place at the same time as the presidential elections, and its chairman Kılıçdaroğlu also becomes head of state (which is particularly important today in view of the country's presidential system), it would be a resounding success.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Plenty of reasons for Kurds to vote against Erdoğan

The incumbent president very likely won't be able to count on the support of Kurdish voters, a third of whom have voted for him in the past, in these elections, notes Jutarnji list:

“It seems likely that this loyal group will turn their backs on the AK Party and Erdoğan now - because of the difficult financial situation, the free fall of the lira, high inflation which now exceeds 50 percent, the catastrophic reaction to the earthquake in February, most of which hit Kurdish territory, and the overall bad experiences with the government of the sultan since the failed coup in July 2016. On top of that, the Kurdish community is under a lot of pressure. And then there's the young voters who have grown up under Erdoğan's rule and only want change now.”

Sabah (TR) /

Many uncertainties in the event of a run-off

Kılıçdaroğlu is currently ahead of Erdoğan in the polls, but lacks an all-out majority. It is hard to predict what result a second ballot would produce, the pro-government daily Sabah observes:

“There is no precedent for run-off elections in this country and it is impossible to predict how voters would behave. ... There are at least four uncertainties: 1. How high the share of the votes for Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu will be in the first round, and who will come out ahead. 2. What the result of the parliamentary elections will be and what the distribution of seats will look like. 3. Which candidates the [other candidates] İnce and Ogan will tell their voters to back. 4: What the campaigns of the candidates in a second round would look like.”

Habertürk (TR) /

Make it easier for the displaced to vote

More than three million people have left south-eastern Turkey since the earthquakes according to official estimates, but only 133,000 of them have registered to vote in other provinces, notes Habertürk columnist Sevilay Yılman:

“There is a risk that more than three million citizens from the earthquake zone will not cast their vote in this historic and critical election, and this risk should be taken seriously by both the opposition and the government. The voters who had to leave their city after the earthquake should at least be able to return to vote where they are registered. They should be given easier access to planes, buses, trains and cars for this purpose. Turkish Airlines should provide reasonably priced round-trip flights on 14 May. This should already be in the planning.”

Yetkin Report (TR) /

Don't lose sight of the middle classes

The opposition alliance would be ill-advised to focus its election campaign solely on fighting poverty, Yetkin Report comments:

“Middle class white-collar workers have taken the biggest hit over the last decade. Not only have they been disproportionately burdened by income tax for years, but more recently their income has also dropped drastically in comparison with the minimum wage. The government is ignoring the middle classes and just adding to their expenses because it knows it will not get their vote. But the Nation Alliance should not regard them as a safe bet and neglect their needs. Middle-class voters should not be forced to abandon their class interests to regain their freedom.”

Diken (TR) /

One-upmanship in displays of piety

Diken criticises the displays of religiosity by all political camps:

“Instead of simply showing their respect for the faith and religious way of life, the opposition has entered into a pious competition with the government, with mosque openings, ceremonies with prayers, women politicians wearing headscarfs while breaking their fast and unnecessary statements such as 'I am descended from the Prophet'. This is not only pointless but also poses a great danger for the future of the country. ... The opposition doesn't realise that it is accelerating and even consolidating change [towards a policy in which religion plays a dominant and problematic role] by competing with the government on religiosity.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Nothing will change in relations with Europe

The EU is being cagey about its interest in the Turkish elections, Jutarnji list is convinced:

“The elections in Turkey are being watched with great interest from Brussels. Because of the delicate relationship with Turkish President Erdoğan, who has ruled the country for 20 years, sometimes as prime minister, sometimes as president, EU representatives are wary of openly saying which outcome they would prefer. ... Turkey may look different after the elections in mid-May, but that won't change much in its relationship with the EU. To be frank, the EU wouldn't want to have Turkey as a member in the near future, even if it met all the requirements for membership. Because with Turkey it would be biting off more than it can chew.”

Sabah (TR) /

Also a vote on the presidential system

This election is about fundamental issues, the pro-government daily Sabah writes:

“The upcoming vote is not just a presidential and parliamentary election. ... It's also a referendum on the system. The Nation Alliance is basing its campaign on a change of system. ... A return to the parliamentary system. If the Nation Alliance achieves the parliamentary majority necessary to change the constitution, this will be the end of the presidential system. ... If it doesn't, the debate about a return to the old system will be over.”

Yetkin Report (TR) /

Women turning their backs on Erdoğan

Women once made up 55 percent of Erdoğan's voters, Yetkin Report recalls:

“For female AKP voters, Erdoğan was more like a charismatic pop star than a political leader. This trend first started to change with the 2018 elections. ... The main factor was that women who had entered education and business life thanks to Erdoğan's AKP government realised that the headscarf was not their only problem. Erdoğan's complaints about women marrying late and his constant talk about their obligation to have three children and care for the elderly didn't correspond to the realities of modern urban life. ... Erdoğan's new allies don't accept that women are equal to men. Erdoğan is turning against the women who brought him to power in the hope that these allies will keep him there.”

Kurier (AT) /

Opposition alliance too disparate

We should not expect too much of the Nation Alliance, warns Kurier:

“We may well doubt the clout of the united opposition. And not only because its leader, Kemal Kiliçdaroğlu, is already 74 years old and not very charismatic, but because the alliance could not be more heterogeneous: it includes social democrats, stringent nationalists and even Islamists. The only thing that unites them is the slogan: Erdoğan must go! ... But this is of little use as the only binding element - as similar experiments in Hungary and Israel have shown.”

NV (UA) /

Erdoğan losing would cause problems too

It is not at all certain that the current president would relinquish power if he were beaten, writes Ihor Semiwolos, director of the Think Tank Association for Middle East Studies, in NV:

“What will happen to Erdoğan if he loses? This is a question that probably has no answer in Turkish society. There is a lot at stake, because as we know from Turkey's past, many will call for investigations into a number of things, such as the repression that followed the failed military coup in Turkey. ... So for Erdoğan, losing the elections is likely to be associated with many problems. And it is precisely with this in mind that many say he will not simply give up his power if he loses.”

Yetkin Report (TR) /

Europe's secret favourite

Yetkin Report is convinced:

“If Kılıçdaroğlu wins, the West, especially the EU, will face a serious test. ... It is easy to 'marginalize' and 'othering' the Islamist and now nationalist Erdoğan. ... EU capitals are worried that if Kılıçdaroğlu sends Syrians back, they will take other routes to Europe. But Erdoğan is willing to keep them in Türkiye for his own political and economic interests. This is what suits them. ... A Türkiye that turns its face back to the West is not in the interest of the religious, right-wing, conservative and racist circles in the West who see the EU as a Christian Club. In the eyes of most EU politicians, Türkiye must remain the antithesis. That is why they secretly prefer Erdoğan to win the elections.”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

Ideological mish-mash means tough decision for voters

Burhanettin Duran, head of the pro-government think tank Seta, says in Daily Sabah:

“I believe that undecided voters will find it more difficult to choose in this election, in terms of identity and ideological affiliation, than at any other point in Türkiye's recent past. That is because the polarization between the two main alliances is fueled by anti-Erdoğanism as opposed to the traditional right-left or conservative-secularist divide. ... Kılıçdaroğlu has been pushing all ideological buttons in an attempt to win votes but his efforts failed to give his party a meaningful identity.”