Turkish voters consider the next president and future 2023

Sunday’s runoff presidential election pits an increasingly authoritarian leader against a democratic opponent.

After losing the first round on May 14, populist and controversial President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has controlled Turkey for 20 years, is poised to win. Despite sky-high inflation and the February earthquake, he finished first.

Turkey’s pro-secular major opposition party and six-party coalition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has promised to reverse Erdogan’s authoritarianism. The 74-year-old former bureaucrat has called the runoff a referendum on NATO’s expansion in the strategically positioned NATO country at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

It’s existential. Kilicdaroglu said Turkey will either go black or bright. “This isn’t an election. It’s a referendum.”

Before Sunday’s runoff, Kilicdaroglu (pronounced KEH-lich-DAHR-OH-loo) hardened his stance, promising to send back millions of refugees and rejecting peace talks with Kurdish militants.

After creating economic and safety circumstances, the social democrat wanted to repatriate Syrians within two years.

He has also urged 8 million first-round absentees to vote in the runoff.

Erdogan won the first round with 49.5%. Kilicdaroglu got 44.9%.

Turkey’s longest-serving leader, Erdogan has been prime minister since 2003 and president since 2014 at 69. Reelected, he might rule until 2028.

Turkey is a crucial but occasionally difficult NATO ally under Erdogan.

It opposed Sweden’s alliance membership and bought Russian missile-defense systems, prompting the US to exclude Turkey from a fighter-jet deal. Turkey and the U.N. also arranged for Ukraine to export grain over the Black Sea to hungry nations.

Sinan Ogan, who finished third with 5.2% of the vote, endorsed Erdogan this week. Even if Ogan’s supporters aren’t unified and won’t all vote for Erdogan, the decision was considered as a gain for Erdogan.

Erdogan’s nationalist-Islamist alliance won legislative elections two weeks ago, boosting his chances of reelection since voters may wish to prevent a fragmented government.

After Kilicdaroglu and Ogan signed a protocol to return millions of migrants and refugees within a year, the leader of a hard-line anti-migrant party endorsed him on Wednesday.

Kilicdaroglu’s prospects of winning depend on the opposition’s ability to rally first-round absentee votes.

“Technically, he stands a chance,” said Istanbul’s Kadir Has University professor Serhat Guvenc.

“It may be a different story” if the opposition can contact absentee voters.

Serra Ural, 45, of Istanbul said she would vote for Kilicdaroglu because Erdogan mismanaged the economy.

After Erdogan allied with Huda-Par, a hard-line Kurdish Islamist political organization with claimed ties to a 1990s murder gang, she voiced worries about women’s rights. The party opposes mixed-gender education, criminalizes adultery, and encourages women to stay home.

She remarked, “We don’t know what will happen to women tomorrow or the next day, what condition they’ll be in. “Huda-Par scares us—especially women.”

Mehmet Nergis, 29, would vote for Erdogan for stability.

Erdogan “guarantees a more stable future,” Nergis remarked. “He has brought Turkey far.”

He said Erdogan will fix the economy.

Erdogan’s campaign has centered on reconstructing earthquake-devastated towns, which killed over 50,000 people in Turkey. He pledged 319,000 houses this year.

Despite criticism of his government’s tardy catastrophe response, Erdogan’s alliance won 10 of 11 provinces in the quake-affected region in the parliamentary election.

“Yes, there was a delay, but the roads were blocked,” claimed Erdogan supporter Yasar Sunulu near Kahramanmaras, the epicenter of the earthquake. “We cannot criticize the state… It provided food, bread, and other necessities.”

His family lives in a tent after their house was destroyed.

In the same group, four-mother Nursel Karci stated she would vote for Erdogan.

Erdogan “did everything I couldn’t,” she remarked. “He clothed my children when I couldn’t. He fed them… I spent nothing.”

After receiving support from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party, Erdogan has accused Kilicdaroglu of working with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

Erdogan showed a fabricated video of a PKK commander singing the opposition’s campaign hymn to hundreds of thousands of supporters in Istanbul. Erdogan said on Monday that the PKK supports Kilicdaroglu whether the video is “faked or not.”

Guvenc said most experts underestimated Erdogan’s Kilicdaroglu campaign. The ordinary Turkish nationalist-religious electorate liked this.

“Politics today is about building and sustaining a narrative that shadows reality,” he said. “Erdogan and his people excel at creating narratives that obscure reality.”

News AP

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