While the electoral offices are gradually closing and both Türkiye and international politics are eagerly awaiting the first high – bill results of the run – off election for the office of Turkish President, MENA Research and Study Center would like to take a look at the past days and weeks and explain how it came to the fact that the candidate, for many favored candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu will appear to lose this run – off vote.
An opposition alliance of six parties should therefore be the one who wanted to challenge the long – time ruler of Türkiye Recep Tayeb Erdogan in the Presidential elections in 2023. An alliance of parties that are at the core of the most diverse and completely differing values and views. But a vision and a goal united these parties: the victory in the Presidential elections in 2023 and the end of Erdogan’s long – standing reign. On account of the increasingly deteriorating economic situation, Erdogan has been under pressure more and more. The result was an uprising mood within the population. Young Turks dreamed of a new political order in Türkiye and a shift in the balance of power on the Bosphorus.
But quickly became clear: the biggest challenge for the opposition alliance was not the political confrontation with Erdogan and his AKP, but rather the cooperation within the opposition alliance itself. Kemal Kilicdaroglu quickly made claims to stand as the Presidential candidate of the opposition alliance, on the suffering of the IYi Party and its chairman, Meral Aksener. Erdogan and his AKP tried to defame the opposition’s proposed candidates with a dirty – air campaign. The preferred potential candidates for the IYi Party were Istanbul’s mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, or as an alternative Ankara’s mayor. Already in December 2022, Imamoglu had been politically weakened by a trial. Moreover, even before the elections, the AKP was planning a policy ban on Imamoglu in order to prevent him as a candidate.
But in the morning hours of the 06th of February 2023 everything changed. An immense earthquake shook large parts of southern Türkiye, heavily destroyed localities and regions and claimed more than 50,000 dead. The Turkish state, above all the power – holder Erdogan, seemed to be completely overwhelmed with this event. Aid workers were only delayed sent to the affected regions and inadequately. The state crisis management was silent. Erdogan was now under severe political pressure. Due to hardship and due to massive internal criticism, the Turkish state quickly blamed contractors who were not supposed to have kept to the building measures. It was quickly clear to those affected that the rotten and corrupt state system consciously accepted these tree defects against the receipt of bribes. This fact was a feeding frenzy for the opposition. Kilicdaroglu traveled through the affected regions, became popular and promised remedy, new regulations in the construction regulation and transparent trials for those responsible. Erdogan, in turn, tried with promises such as: ” Within a year, we will rebuild these areas and make it shine brighter than before ” to pull the voters on his side and to appease the disappointment of those affected.
About a month before the elections, Kilicdaroglu was in most of the polls partly clear ahead of Erdogan. Western diplomats specifically began to seek a conversation with Kilicdaroglu in order to negotiate with him and start planning foreign policy relations, for example, to the European Union.
In the night from the 14th to the 15th of May, everything appeared to be way different than expected. Erdogan had won the first round of the Turkish Presidential elections, though not by an absolute majority, clearly ahead of his competitor Kemal Kilicdaroglu with 49.5%. In particular, it was very clear that Erdogan had taken record breaking results both in the earthquake areas and within the European diaspora.
The question quickly arose: how was that possible?
Erdogan had managed to unite large parts of the country, despite an economic crisis and a shocking earthquake. His rhetoric of the West deliberately wanted to weaken Türkiye politically, in order to exchange Turkish values against modern views in the medium term was successful.
It became clear after this first round of voting:
- Turkish voters are moving other causes than that of Western citizens in Europe
- Erdogan has once again managed to pull the Turkish diaspora in Europe on his side, although many of the most recent generation in Europe have grown up and trained.
Another surprise of this election was the extremely high level of acceptance of the Turkish nationalist Sinan Ogan, who managed to get around 5% of the votes. The opposition alliance soon became aware of the fact that Ogan would become the kingmaker and would give his recommendation to Erdogan in return for a corresponding offer on the part of Erdogan himself. Around 12 hours after the first round of the election, the first negotiations between Erdogan’s advisors and the advisors of Ogan took place. On the 22nd of May 2023 Ogan finally called on his supporters to give their voice to Erdogan in the second round of the elections.
Whatever the outcome of the second round of the Presidential elections will be, the future President of Türkiye will have to face extensive challenges, such as the future of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, or the restoration of the Turkish economy, in order to stabilize the country politically in the medium term.
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