A Display of Türkiye’s Political Landscape

A Display of Türkiye’s Political Landscape
Türkiye, a crucial geopolitical player straddling Europe and Asia, is all set to witness a significant upcoming Presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14 2023. These elections hold immense importance as they will shape the country's political landscape and have far-reaching implications domestically and internationally.

The May 14 2023 date was outlined to commemorate the 1950 first-ever democratic general election in Türkiye while entering its 100th year. It is estimated that 64.1 million voters will vote in the May 14 elections, where 60.7 million are registered in Türkiye, and 3.4 million are registered voters abroad, who have already cast their vote from April 27 to 9  May. In overseas voters, the turnout trend is estimated at about 53 percent, which is considered higher than before.

The political landscape in Türkiye is marked by a diverse array of political parties representing various ideological orientations. As per the Türkiye’s Supreme Election Council (YSK), 24 political parties and 151 independent local candidates will run for 600 Grand Assembly Seats. A seven percent electoral threshold or being part of any alliance is the prerequisite for all these parties to enter the parliamentary electoral race, whereas no such condition applies to the local independent candidates.

There are three alliances running in the elections projected to pass the 7 % threshold: The People's Alliance led by current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) includes three parties Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Great Unity Party (BBP), and New Welfare Party (YRP). Free Cause Party (HUDA-PAR) also announced its support for him without joining the alliance.

The main opposition bloc's Nation Alliance, on the other hand, is made up of six parties: Republican People's Party (CHP), Good Party (İYİ), Felicity Party (SP), Future Party (GP), Democrat Party (DP) and Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA). The Labor and Freedom Alliance technically consists of the Green Left Party (YSP) and the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TIP).

However, the YSP possesses candidates from four different parties, including the pro-Kurdish Democratic People’s Party (HDP), the third-largest opposition party in the country. The HDP isn’t running candidates for parliament under its own name due to a pending court case that could see it shut down.

A five percent threshold in the previous parliamentary elections, or 100,000 voters’ signatures, is a prerequisite for a political party to be eligible to nominate its candidate for the Presidential election. The People's Alliance’s presidential candidate is Erdogan, the longest-serving leader in the country's history.

Labelled "The Table of Six,” the opposition bloc backs CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu as their presidential candidate. However, in the ballot paper, voters will only see CHP and İYİ forming the Nation Alliance as the other party candidates will participate in the race under these two parties' electoral lists. The Labor and Freedom Alliance nominates Sinan Oğan for the Presidential race.

Both Parliamentary and Presidential elections will occur tomorrow at the same time, from 8 am to 5 pm, in 87 districts of Türkiye, with the voters receiving two separate ballots, one for Presidential candidates and the other for parliamentary candidates. There are three candidates for the Presidential election race after the last-minute withdrawal of Muharram İnce.

As per Türkiye’s Supreme Election Council, if none of the Presidential candidates secure 50 percent votes, there will be a second round for the presidential election between the top two candidates on May 28. In this scenario, the second round of voting will be held for overseas voters from May 20 to 24 in the diplomatic missions of Türkiye abroad.

The political outlook of Türkiye has been dominated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for nearly two decades. However, to challenge the AKP’s stronghold, new political parties and alliances emerged in recent times. The joint candidate of the People’s Alliance, Erdogan’s campaign has emphasized his vision for the “Century of Turkey,” showcasing the achievements of his tenure in power, including cutting-edge technologies in the defense industry, high-tech advancement in the automobile sector (TOGG), Black Sea gas discovery, elimination of the retirement age.

The election campaign and AKP’s manifesto promises to heal the wounds of victims of the February earthquakes, rebuild the cities across 11 provinces, and create 6 million new jobs to reduce the unemployment rate to 7 percent, speeding up tourism promotion and investment with record 100-billion-dollar revenue and 90 million tourists, visa-free access to Turkish nationals in Europe and build "the axis of Türkiye" with a foreign policy of peace and stability.

Erdogan’s Presidential electoral bid is complicated by the cost-of-living crisis and poor handling of the earthquake, whereas his international demeanor on the war in Ukraine and who should join NATO is earning him good repute domestically but a crossness one internationally, proving it to be a double edge sword which may cost him losing an absolute majority in the parliamentary seats and a tough fight with the Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu who stood nowhere in comparison to Erdogan’s popularity earlier.

The main opposition alliance leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu brings together a disparate array of ideologies, all focused-on restructuring into a parliamentary system and reducing executive dominance, rapidly reducing inflation, increasing per capita income, returning Syrian and Afghan refugees back to their countries, resuming talks on EU membership, complying with ECHR rulings, and to abandon strategic positions at odds with their NATO alliance partners.

The opposition parties have largely consolidated around a pro-west agenda with a wide foreign policy shift. Sinan Oğan, the third presidential candidate, favors the return of the parliamentary system. However, he cannot give a fight any of the two opponents but can divert the nationalist vote from MHP and İyi party.

Voter dynamics is crucial to comprehend Türkiye's political landscape as it has a diverse electorate with varying regional and ideological preferences in which Urban areas lean towards opposition parties, while rural regions often support the ruling party. The Kurdish-majority regions with the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) represent Kurdish interests.

Türkiye has faced numerous challenges in recent years, with democratic backsliding and trials to its political stability within the country, including the erosion of democratic institutions, freedom of expression, a crackdown on dissenting voices, restrictions on media freedom, and allegations of human rights abuses have sparked debates about the health of Türkiye's democracy.

Furthermore, socio-economic challenges such as high inflation, cost of living crisis, unemployment, and economic inequality have contributed to public dissatisfaction. These factors may influence voting patterns and shape the electoral outcome.

The expectations of voters are diverse and multifaceted. The competition between political parties, emerging issues, and voter expectations creates an atmosphere of anticipation. It is crucial for Türkiye's democratic health that the elections are conducted in a fair, transparent, and inclusive manner, fostering public trust in the democratic process.

Türkiye’s citizens seek political stability, improved economic conditions, protection of democratic values, and effective governance. The ability of political parties and alliances to address these expectations will determine their electoral success.

According to GEHSC (Daily), Euro news, 600vekil and POLITICO pollsters up to May 12 2023, the maximum lead is four, and the minimum lead between both the alliances’ Presidential candidates is 1.07 percent entailing a neck-to-neck competition in tomorrow’s tug of the vote. 84 percent is estimated to be highest voter turnout for tomorrow’s election with 5 million first time voters. Electoral voting count will start at  6 pm and by 9 pm unofficial results will be will be in the row from the media outlets  whereas on Monday official results will be announced by the Supreme Election Council (YSK).

Regardless of the electoral outcomes, Türkiye's political landscape must prioritize democratic values, respect for human rights, and socio-economic development. A strong and stable democracy will enable Türkiye to address its challenges, play a constructive role regionally and internationally, and ensure the well-being and aspirations of its citizens.

Shamsa Khalil is an MPhil Scholar at the Social Sciences University of Ankara (ASBU), Türkiye. She is an independent researcher and Works as International Communication and cooperation Specialist at Fatih Sultan Mehmet Vakif University, Istanbul, Türkiye. Her interest areas are current issues, security affairs, and global politics. She can be reached at shamsakhalil93@gmail.com, and she tweets @khalilshamsa