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Why Erdogan’s turkeys face his first-ever runoff

Why Erdogan’s turkeys face his first-ever runoff


Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who wields almost unbridled power, is seeking another term in the presidential elections. After leading the country for two decades, Erdogan has come under fire for his government’s handling of a cost-of-living crisis and catastrophic twin earthquakes. He failed to win an outright majority in a first round of voting, staging a runoff on May 28 against his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who enjoys the support of the largest group of opposition parties of all. time.

1. Why are the Turkish elections important?

Straddling Europe and Asia and controlling access to the Black Sea, Turkey is strategically located. After the United States, it has the second largest army in NATO. This alliance has been put to the test by the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system by the Erdogan government and by its persistent objections to Sweden joining NATO. Erdogan’s rivals have pledged to improve relations with Turkey’s traditional allies in the West and to dismantle the authoritarianism that has marked his rule.

2. What happened in the first round?

While Erdogan came out on top with 49.5% of the vote, neither he nor Kilicdaroglu got the 50% share needed for an outright victory, so the two are now facing each other to decide the winner. . Erdogans’ campaign team was optimistic as most opinion polls ahead of the vote had predicted a narrow victory for Kilicdaroglu. A surprise display by Sinan Ogan, a third candidate who ran on an anti-immigrant platform in the first round, was key to preventing the favorites from securing a majority. Ogan then backed Erdogan for the run-off while Umit Ozdag, another eliminated anti-immigration candidate, announced his support for Kilicdaroglu. Erdogan’s ruling alliance won a majority in parallel parliamentary elections.

3. What challenges does Erdogan face?

Erdogan remains Turkey’s most popular politician, but with the rapid erosion of purchasing power in the country, his Justice and Development Party has lost some support. Turkey’s opposition parties have rarely coordinated their strategy in the past, but this time Erdogan faced a serious challenge from a six-party bloc. Additionally, the elections come in the wake of the devastating earthquakes in February that claimed more than 50,000 lives. Survivors and opposition parties have accused the government of failing to respond adequately to the disaster.

4. Why are the prices so high?

The cost of living crisis is the worst in two decades. This particularly affected the poor, who had been among Erdogan’s staunchest supporters. Turkey’s inflation rate slowed to 50.5% in March, after hitting a 24-year high of 85.5% in October. Pandemic disruptions and the war in Ukraine have fueled inflation in many countries, but Erdogan’s unconventional economic views have magnified the problem in Turkey. While many central banks have raised interest rates to fight inflation, Erdogan takes the unorthodox position that it has the opposite effect. Under pressure from him, Turkey’s central bank lowered its rates. Chronic inflation is eroding citizens’ purchasing power even after the government has dramatically increased pensions, civil servant salaries and the minimum wage. Erdogan announced further pay rises for state employees in the days before the election as he sought to drum up support.

5. What does Kilicdaroglu mean?

Supported by a large group of opposition parties, Kilicdaroglu is running on a promise to restore the rule of law, mend strained ties with the West and return to economic orthodoxy. A soft-spoken civil servant and trained economist, he accuses Erdogan’s government of concealing the true state of the country’s economy and finances. He has promised to dismantle the executive presidential system introduced by his rival five years ago in favor of a stronger parliament. Kilicdaroglu has also pledged to restore an autonomous central bank. Erdogan has the power to directly appoint and dismiss the governor of banks and members of his monetary policy committee.

6. Which Islamist parties support Erdogan?

Erdogan, whose party was already associated with the smaller Nationalist Movement Party, expanded his alliance in late March to include two fringe Islamist parties. One of them, Huda-Par, wants to sever ties with Israel and prevent Sweden from joining NATO because an activist burned a Koran in Stockholm in January. Huda-Par was founded by people linked to a pro-Kurdish militant group called Hezbollah which is unrelated to the Lebanese group of the same name. Erdogan’s other new ally is Yeniden Refah, led by the son of the country’s first Islamist prime minister and Erdogan’s former mentor, Necmettin Erbakan. He seeks an educational system that emphasizes spirituality as much as scientific knowledge.

–With the help of Beril Akman.

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