According to CNN, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will face unprecedented challenges in Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday, which could end his two-decade rule.
According to polls, Erdogan is trailing the main opposition candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. If neither candidate receives more than 50% of the vote to win outright, a run-off election will be held on May 28. Less than three months after an earthquake in southern Turkey and northern Syria killed more than 50,000 people and displaced more than 5.9 million, voters will decide the fate of Turkey’s democracy.
The elections are also taking place in the midst of a severe economic crisis and, according to analysts, democratic erosion under Erdogan’s government, according to CNN.
On Saturday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held his final election rallies in Istanbul before a so-called propaganda ban took effect, accusing the opposition of conspiring with US Vice President Joe Biden to destabilise him and making a final appeal in the run-up to the biggest challenge to his 20-year rule.
One of his talking points has been that the opposition is receiving orders from the West and that if elected, they will defer to the wishes of Western nations. Erdogan also recalled comments made by Biden and published by the New York Times in January 2020, when he was campaigning for the presidency.
Analysts predict a record voter turnout this year, as well as a close race between Erdogan and the main opposition candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and presidential candidate for the six-party Nation Alliance bloc.
More than 1.8 million voters living abroad voted on April 17, according to the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah, citing the country’s deputy foreign minister.
The demographics of Turkey are also expected to play a role. The majority of the provinces hit by the February earthquake were Erdogan and his AK Party strongholds. However, Supreme Election Council (YSK) chief Ahmet Yener stated last month that at least 1 million voters in earthquake-affected areas are expected to abstain from voting this year due to displacement.
Even if Kilicdaroglu wins the election, some analysts believe Erdogan will not hand over power to his successor without a fight, according to CNN. In addition to Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu, Sinan Ogan of the right-wing Ancestral Alliance is running.
Ince, the leader of the centrist Homeland Party, announced his resignation after a “slander campaign” against him. In Turkey, he has faced weeks of lurid allegations on social media, and the Ankara public prosecutor’s office announced Thursday that an investigation into potential blackmail had been launched.
His Homeland party, on the other hand, will remain in the parliamentary race.
In 2018, he ran for president but lost to Erdogan. In March of this year, he broke away from Kilicdaroglu’s CHP and entered the presidential race. He initially rejected calls from his former party to withdraw, fearing that he would steal votes from Erdogan’s rival.
Ince has not endorsed any of the remaining candidates, and his name will remain on the ballot. Kilicdaroglu could benefit from his departure. Some analysts believe that if Erdogan loses by a narrow margin, he will be able to challenge the results. And, if history is any guide, the president and his AK Party will not take defeat lying down, according to CNN.