Elections in Turkiye
On Wednesday, President Tayyip Erdogan announced that the elections will proceed as planned on May 14, despite the recent earthquake that claimed the lives of over 45,000 people in Turkey. Addressing lawmakers from his ruling AK Party in parliament, Erdogan affirmed that the nation will take the necessary steps to hold the elections, which are widely viewed as a significant political challenge for him.
In the weeks following the earthquake, there had been mixed messages about the timing of the presidential and parliamentary elections, with some suggesting that they might be postponed until later in the year or held as scheduled on June 18. However, Erdogan has opted to stick with the original plan for May 14.
The Turkish president’s popularity had been declining in recent years due to high inflation and a weak lira, which has had a negative impact on living standards. However, some recent opinion polls had shown a slight increase in his support, indicating that the election could be closely contested.
How the earthquake changes the situation
During a speech in parliament on Wednesday, President Erdogan confirmed that the presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey will go ahead in May, one month earlier than originally planned. The announcement came just weeks after the deadliest earthquakes in the nation’s history, which claimed the lives of over 45,000 people. There had been some uncertainty about whether the vote would be postponed, but Erdogan expressed confidence that voters would rally around him and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
In the aftermath of the earthquake, Erdogan has promised to establish a fund for the swift reconstruction of the 10 affected provinces, as well as to build thousands of new houses for earthquake survivors. His government has also been carrying out emergency work in cities impacted by the quake, which Erdogan believes puts him in an advantageous position for the upcoming election.
According to a recent survey by the Center for Social Impact Studies, Erdogan’s People’s Alliance maintains 44 percent support, on par with January polls prior to the earthquake. The poll also shows Erdogan up three points since January, performing better than his main opposition chief and potential rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. While there has been some criticism of the government’s slow initial response to the earthquake, this does not appear to have had a significant impact on voting behavior.
Experts suggest that it may take time for voters to fully process the impact of the earthquake and adjust their voting preferences accordingly. However, Erdogan’s promise of swift and comprehensive reconstruction may earn him some credit with voters, particularly as he continues to frame the tragedy in emotional and spiritual terms while blaming the opposition for opportunism.
At present, an accurate assessment of the impact of the recent earthquake on President Erdogan’s electoral prospects remains elusive. However, preliminary indications suggest that the public response has not been characterized by adverse sentiment directed at Erdogan, but instead has assigned culpability to alternate variables, with the outcome that the event may even prove propitious to Erdogan’s electoral fortunes.
Oppositions splits up
The announcement of a candidate to challenge Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the upcoming May 14th elections has caused a rift in the primary opposition alliance of six parties. The founder of the Good Party, Meral Aksener, refused to endorse the head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who was nominated by five of the six parties. Aksener argued that the CHP’s candidate selection was driven by “small calculations” that did not align with the nation’s interest, and that her party would not succumb to pressure to approve Kilicdaroglu’s nomination. Instead, Aksener proposed the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara, both from the CHP, as alternative candidates based on opinion poll results. She contended that the opposition alliance was no longer a platform to deliberate on possible candidates but instead became an office that endorsed one candidate.
After a meeting with party officials, Aksener expressed her support for Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu and Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas to run for office. Both mayors, however, confirmed their endorsement of Kilicdaroglu’s nomination. The opposition alliance leaders had agreed on a joint presidential candidate in a meeting that lasted over five hours on Thursday, and issued a statement indicating that they had reached a consensus. They were scheduled to announce the final decision on Monday, but Aksener’s disagreement and proposal for alternative candidates have caused uncertainty within the coalition. The mayors of Istanbul and Ankara are expected to visit Aksener, while Kilicdaroglu has voiced his support for maintaining the coalition.
The schism within the opposition alliance, if left unaddressed, could serve as a catalyst for Erdogan’s triumph, as Aksener’s party commands a sizable share of votes and holds the position of the second largest constituent within the coalition. However, the outcome is not preordained, given the indications that a considerable number of Aksener’s supporters are disenchanted with her stance and may yet cast their ballots for the unified opposition. Additionally, Kilicdaroglu has affirmed his commitment to forging a broader coalition by enlisting additional political groups, a move that could offset the loss of votes occasioned by Aksener’s dissent.”
At this moment, Erdogan has a good chance of winning the upcoming elections, but uncertainty remains high, as the situation can swiftly change in Turkiye’s fluid political reality.