As Turkey prepares for its presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14th, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing an arduous battle for survival. Despite his past successes, Erdogan is currently trailing in the polls due to three primary factors.
To begin with, Erdogan can no longer rely on his authoritarian agreement that promised economic growth and upward social mobility in exchange for political support or compliance. This arrangement has worked for him throughout his 20-year rule, but it is now irreparably damaged.
Erdogan’s stubborn and uneducated monetary policies have rendered the economy fragile and plagued with high inflation. This has led to a significant decline in purchasing power, resulting in growing poverty and income inequality in recent years.
Unfortunately, the negative news for Erdogan does not end with the economy.
The second significant factor contributing to Erdogan’s struggle for re-elecip=tion is the =-emergence of a united opposition, which historically has been weak and fragmented. This diverse coalition comprises six political parties that have banded together, bolstered by the backing of a significant Kurdish political movement.
They are firmly supporting Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the social-democratic Republican People’s Party, who is the candidate for what is commonly referred to as the Nation Alliance.
Kilicdaroglu currently holds a slim lead over Erdogan in the polls, making him a formidable opponent. This marks a significant shift in Turkish politics, as the opposition’s unity has been a rare occurrence in recent years. Erdogan’s previously unchallenged dominance in the political landscape is now being tested by this newfound opposition strength.
The third factor contributing to Erdogan’s uphill battle is the catastrophic earthquake that rocked Turkey on February 6, claiming the lives of over 50,000 people. The disaster laid bare the inefficiency and institutional decay under Erdogan’s autocratic regime.
Millions of affected citizens were left frustrated by the quasi-absent state in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. The governmental agencies, under the corrupt management of incompetent cronies, not only failed in search and rescue efforts but also mishandled the post-disaster relief efforts.
Under normal circumstances, these factors would significantly impact the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) chances of success in the upcoming elections. However, elections in Erdogan’s Turkey are no longer free and fair, as the government controls most of the media and the judicial system. If the opposition does not secure a substantial margin of victory, Erdogan may refuse to concede and challenge the results in court or, worse, take to the streets.
Despite lacking charisma and oratory skills, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the 74-year-old leader of the social-democratic Republican People’s Party, is the mastermind behind the opposition’s newfound unity. Kilicdaroglu is widely respected for his integrity, but he has a losing record against Erdogan, which may prove to be a significant obstacle in the upcoming elections.
The upcoming presidential election in Turkey is expected to be highly contested, with the possibility of a second round. The question of whether Kemal Kilicdaroglu can secure more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round largely depends on the resurgent candidacy of Muharrem Ince, who has emerged as a populist challenger to Erdogan. Ince, who polls between 5 and 7 percent, is attracting younger voters who are dissatisfied with both the AKP and the opposition.
The stakes are high, and the entire country is on edge. A significant portion of the population is eager for change, but they are also apprehensive and skeptical about the prospect of Erdogan losing power.
Like many Western observers who lack confidence in Turkey’s democratic maturity, many Turkish citizens find it difficult to believe that Erdogan will accept defeat gracefully and quietly step down. This highlights a crucial yet often misunderstood aspect of the unfolding drama in Turkey: Erdogan’s aura of political invincibility is his most significant advantage.
Despite the obstacles he faces, Erdogan remains a formidable opponent with a loyal base of supporters. His control over most of the media and the judicial system, as well as his reputation as a strongman, further solidify his position. However, the united opposition and the growing discontent among Turkish citizens may present a genuine challenge to Erdogan’s rule. The outcome of the upcoming elections will determine the future direction of Turkey and the fate of its democracy.
Many people in Turkey fear that Erdogan will find a way to cling onto power and that a peaceful transfer of power will be impossible. Some view the upcoming election as the last chance to prevent Turkey from sliding into dictatorship. However, this mindset is misguided and fails to recognize the reality of the situation.
Despite his strongman image, Erdogan is not as powerful as he may appear, and Turkey is not a complete autocracy like China or Russia, where elections are largely ceremonial. If the Turkish people are not intimidated by Erdogan, elections will continue to be meaningful.
Even if Erdogan is able to win the election, it is important for the opposition and the Turkish people to remain vigilant and ensure that the election was not manipulated before conceding defeat. They should prepare for future battles instead of losing hope in the democratic process.
It is important to remember that Turkish democracy will outlast Erdogan, even if he manages to secure a short-term victory. In the long run, Erdogan is bound to lose, even if he wins this election.
Erdogan’s grip on power in Turkey is not as strong as it may seem. The upcoming presidential election is expected to be a tight race, with the opposition united and boosted by Kurdish support. However, Erdogan still has an advantage in his perceived aura of invincibility, and the potential for election manipulation and refusal to concede cannot be ignored.
Despite this, it is important to remember that Erdogan has lost before, and even if he were to win this election, his hold on power is weakened by institutional decay, economic troubles, and centralization of decision-making. Ultimately, Turkish democracy will outlast Erdogan, and the opposition and Turkish people should remain vigilant in ensuring fair and transparent elections.