Sunday, June 4, 2023

Erdogan’s rivals face uphill task of winning second round in Turkey

Turkey’s secular opposition candidate, Kemal Kilikdaroglu, managed to block the re-election of conservative President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the first round on Sunday, but his chances of winning on May 28 are slim.

Polls predicted good results for Kilicdaroglu, the head of the six-party coalition, but the 74-year-old candidate won less than 45% of the vote.

Erdogan, on the other hand, was only a few tenths short of an absolute majority, which would have allowed him to win the election in the first round on Sunday.

“The second round will be easier for us,” Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Tuesday.

“There is a difference of five points, around 25 lakh votes. It seems there is no possibility,” he said. [la diferencia] Stop,” he added.

Kilicdaroglu is eyeing young voters to oust Erdogan, who has been in power for two decades.

More than five million first-time voters – who grew up knowing a leader other than Erdogan – were eligible to cast their ballots. It is believed that they want change.

The 74-year-old layman Kilikdaroglu tried to jump-start his campaign on Tuesday with a message aimed directly at this segment of the population.

He wrote on Twitter, “They can’t spend anything. They can’t even think of a cup of coffee. They have been robbed of the joy of living when youth should be synonymous with recklessness.”

– Support for the Kurds: A double-edged sword? ,

Kurds, an ethnic minority representing 10% of the electorate, could also boost Kilikdaroglu’s victory.

The opposition leader, a member of the Alevi community, historically one of the most repressed peoples in Turkey, even gained the support of the pro-Kurdish HDP party in late April.

But the participation rate barely reached 80% in Kurdish-majority provinces, far below the national average of 89%.

However, large support from this minority can become a double-edged sword.

One of Erdogan’s strategies was to mobilize opposition from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been waging a war against the state for decades. This approach seems to have penetrated even the most nationalist and conservative circles.

“Overall, Kilicdaroglu’s electoral alliance with the pro-Kurdish HDP hurt him,” said Soner Cagupte, an analyst at the Washington Institute.

He analyzed, “Some HDP voters in Kurdish-majority provinces stayed home on election day, while some nationalist voters chose not to vote for Kilikdaroglu, rebuking him for his alliance with the HDP.”

It remains to be seen who the third candidate, secular nationalist Sinan Ogan, who won 5.2% in the first round, will support.

His support could prove crucial, although he also focused his campaign against “terrorism”, a term many politicians use to condemn the Kurds.

– ‘It will be easy for Erdogan’ –

“The anti-Kurdish nationalism of this line represented by Ogan (…) makes it very difficult for Kilikdaroglu to reach an agreement,” Kursad Ertugrul of Ankara’s Middle East Technical University told AFP.

Berk Esen, professor of political science at Istanbul’s Sabanci University, said even if Kilikdaroglu wins Ogan’s endorsement, that would likely drive away the Kurdish vote.

After Sunday’s disappointment, another challenge before the opposition is the unity of the six parties that form the alliance.

Emre Peker of the Eurasia Group consultancy said, “Erdogan will have an easier time than Kilicdaroglu to attract voters, especially to Ogan.”

“It is also likely that supporters of the president will turn out to vote in the second round in greater numbers than Kilicdaroglu’s supporters, as the opposition (…) is losing momentum,” he continued.

Erdogan’s campaign will continue to focus on security issues, an issue that worries the “conservative-nationalist” Turkish working class, despite the effects of the economic crisis, Ertugrul told AFP.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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