Wed. Sep 27th, 2023

  • Voters choose between Erdogan, Kemal Kilicdaroglu in runoff election
  • Analyst tells DW the competition between Turkey’s political parties is “not fair”
  • The election would decide the country’s political, economic and foreign policy course
  • Both candidates held final rallies ahead of vote

This article was last updated at 03:20 UTC

Analyst to DW: Competition between political parties ‘not fair’

Seren Selvin Korkmaz, a researcher at the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies and head of the Istanbul-based think tank IstanPol Institute, told DW ahead of the vote that the competition among Turkey’s political parties is not fair.

“Turkey is now categorized as a competitive authoritarian regime, where elections are held regularly but competition among political parties is not fair,” she said.

Korkmaz said that before the elections, the government used state funds for political campaigns, adding that independent judicial bodies are also controlled by government officials. 

What are the main issues in Turkey’s elections?

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She noted that just last year the electoral rules were changed in favor of the government. 

The Turkish government has also “very effectively” used its domination not only in the official media but also in the pro-government media, Korkmaz said.

The researcher listed a number of strategies which she argued helped President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to gain a slight lead in the first round of the presidential election. Those including rewarding loyalty and punishing the disloyal, using pro-government media to paint him as the only candidate who could ensure stability, and resorting to identity politics.

However, she recalled that Erdogan was also suffering from the economic crisis, which had caused disappointment among some of his supporters.

Both candidates urge people to vote

Both Erdogan and opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu rallied their supporters to vote on the final day of election campaigning.

Turkey election campaigns enter final stretch

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Speaking to a rally in Istanbul’s Beykoz district, Erdogan promised his supporters a “historical triumph” with a “vast majority,” as he gears up for a first runoff vote.

The incumbent president also paid homage to his executed mentor, in an effort to mobilize his conservative base. Erdogan visited the mausoleum of Adnan Menderes, who was tried and hanged a year after the 1960 military coup, which restored Turkey to a more secular course.

People walk past an election campaign poster for Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 25, 2023 in Istanbul, Turkey.
Erdogan has appealed to his conservative base on the eve of the runoffImage: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

“The era of coups and juntas is over,” the 69-year-old declared after laying a wreath at his mentor’s tomb in Istanbul. “I once again call on you to go to the ballot boxes. Tomorrow is a special day for us all.”

Kilicdaroglu, meanwhile, called on “those who love their homeland” to “protect the ballot boxes” during a campaign event in Ankara. 

Who are the candidates and what’s at stake?

Sunday’s runoff election pits the country’s decades-long ruler Recep Tayyip Erdogan against challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Erdogan held what could be a vital lead in the first round of voting, defying opinion polls.

Turkey election: Erdogan still the man to beat

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Erdogan has governed the country for the past 20 years, first as prime minister, starting in 2003, then as president from 2014 onwards. The strongly religious president founded his Islamic-conservative AKP (Justice and Development Party) in 2001.

The party won an absolute majority in parliament only a year later. Erdogan has not lost an election since, and after each victory he has found new ways to strengthen his grip on power.

He amended the constitution to introduce a presidential system in 2017 which saw him secure both the party chairman and the president posts at once.

Ballot papers, stamps and envelopes to be used in the upcoming second round of Turkish presidential elections are introduced to press members at the Turkish Supreme Election Council in Ankara, Turkey on May 24, 2023.
Both candidates failed to secure an absolute majority in the first round of votingImage: Evrim Aydin/AA/picture alliance

Kilicdaroglu, by contrast, ran a more moderate campaign up until a few days ago. As the chairman of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s CHP party, he presented himself as a reconciler who wanted to unite Turkey’s deeply divided society.

Among his promises was that of restoring the country’s parliamentary system.

However, after the disappointing first round, the opposition opted for a radical change of course. Kilicdaroglu’s appearances are now loud and aggressive; he strikes a much harsher tone, and rails against refugees in an effort to shore up voters.

Turkey election: Syrians fear their place in society

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Sunday’s decisive vote is set to settle how the country will be governed, where its economy is headed and the shape of its foreign policy. 

Erdogan’s critics have accused him of silencing opposition and driving inflation to astronomical figures, owing to his low interest rates policy.

Sluggish relief efforts after devastating earthquakes in the Turkish-Syrian border region earlier this year has also drawn fierce criticism towards Erdogan’s government.  

rmt/wd (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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