Political confrontation in Turkey enters its home stretch, 14 days before the elections
Two weeks before the Turkish elections, polls show Erdogan losing to his main rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Beyond the results of the pulse measurements, the Turkish president’s on-air collapse destroyed the image he had cultivated for many years. That of the tough and indestructible leader.
According to the Guardian, ministers insist that Erdogan’s illness – he has already had a bowel operation – is nothing more serious than stomach flu. The Turkish president returned normally to the pre-election battle on Saturday (29/4).
The fragile Erdogan
Either way, the episode added to the picture that an authoritarian figure who dominates all aspects of Turkish life, personally dictating domestic policy, security policy and foreign policy, must be held accountable, and that the time has come to change.
The fact that Erdogan, unusually, is slightly behind in the polls compared to his presidential rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People’s Party and leader of a six-party opposition alliance, is a sign that the political terrain may be changing.
Analysts believe Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party and its ultra-nationalist allies could also lose control of parliament, after previous major defeats in local elections in Istanbul and Ankara.
The “red wave” Kilicdaroglu and Erdogan
Both weekend pre-election rallies were successful, both Erdoğan’s in Ankara and Kilicdaroğlu’s in İzmir. The leader of the opposition alliance, characteristically underlined at the end of his pre-election speech: “These elections are the elections that will bring democracy to Turkey”.
The answer was given by Ankara’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with a corresponding “red river”, as tens of thousands gathered at the Turkish president’s pre-election rally.
Erdogan characteristically replied to Kemal Kilicdaroglu: “Do you know who the main host of lies is? Mr. Kemal. If you want to take a lesson in lying, contact Mr. Kemal’s office. He knows it very well.”
The photo during the election rally in Kilitsdaroglu
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s İzmir rally was today the most attended rally ever in İzmir.
Mitinge 1.5 milyonun katildi kirinisi katildiği katilığı ıtıldıyorı. pic.twitter.com/t2SITUO5St
— Sicak Medya (@sicakmedya) April 30, 2023
The image of Erdogan’s election rally
Millî Mücadele’nin karargâhı, istiklâlimizin ve istikbalimizın kapılışı…
Thank you Ankara! 🇹🇷 pic.twitter.com/hW2FZ4Ebpl
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) April 30, 2023
The full support of the pro-Kurdish party in Kilicdaroglu
Last Friday, the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, led by Selahattin Demirtas, announced that it would support Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s alliance.
As “The Observer” reports, Kurds make up a large part of the country’s population, as they make up around 1/5 of Turkey’s 85 million people. In previous elections, the HDP, which Erdogan is trying to ban, won around 10% of the vote nationally.
Earthquakes and the economy are the ‘thorns’ of Erdogan’s campaign
The main issues in the election include the economy. Extremely high inflation and the cost of living crisis are largely blamed on Erdogan’s mismanagement. Such issues, which affect everyone, could undermine the rural base on which the ruling party has traditionally relied. A perceived lack of government response to the February earthquakes, which killed more than 50,000 people, and anger over corrupt construction practices neglected by the state could also sway many voters.
But this election is also a question of heritage and history, which seems to be catching up with the most powerful Turkish leader since Kemal Ataturk. Constitutional changes pushed by Erdogan, giving him sweeping executive powers, mean he is seen as primarily and personally responsible for the country’s problems. His aggressive efforts to silence independent critics and the media did not prevent a growing public backlash.