“Turkish Elections 2023: The Showdown between Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu”

2023-05-28 05:25:38

Closing or prolonging the Erdogan era? Polling stations opened on Sunday May 28 at 8 a.m. (5 a.m. GMT) in Türkiye for an unprecedented second round of the presidential election, which opposes the outgoing president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the social democrat Kemal Kilicdaroglu. After the polls close at 5 p.m. (2 p.m. GMT), the first results are expected in the early evening.

In the residential district of Sisli in Istanbul, Özer Atayolu, a 93-year-old retired engineer, arrived among the first: “I always arrive early to vote first because I believe in democracy and in my responsibility as a citizen” , he confides, his eyes narrowing with mischief, that he feels “like a child celebrating”.

In Ankara, the capital, Zerrin Alan, 55, assures that she was “so excited (that she) could not sleep”. “I hope this election will not be rigged,” she adds.

Two visions of the country, of society and of governance are offered to Turkey’s 60 million voters. Stability at the risk of autocracy with the outgoing hyper-president, a 69-year-old Islamic-conservative; or the return to a peaceful democracy, according to his terms, with his adversary, a 74-year-old former civil servant.

The 49.5% of votes that Erdogan, former mayor of Istanbul and devout Muslim, collected in the first round on May 14 testified to the broad support given to him, despite the inflation, by a conservative majority. Including in the areas devastated by the February 6 earthquake which left at least 50,000 dead and three million displaced.

Facing him, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the “demokrat dede” – the grandpa democrat – as this trained economist with white hair and thin glasses presents himself, has not been able to capitalize on the serious economic crisis which is weighing down Turkish households and young people . President of the CHP – the party of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the republic – he promised the “return of spring” and of the parliamentary regime, of the independence of justice and of the press.

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Read also Turkey: on the eve of the second round, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a position of strength

Erdogan favorite

But Kilicdaroglu, with 45% of the vote in the first round, looks like an outsider: despite the repeated support of the pro-Kurdish HDP, he is credited in the polls with five points behind the head of state who already enjoys a majority in parliament resulting from the legislative elections of 14 May.

Sluggish after the first round, as if flabbergasted at not having won the victory that his side thought he had won, Kemal Kilicdaroglu resurfaced after four days, more offensive and less smiling than the humble “Mr. Everybody” from his start to the campaign . Lacking access to the major media and especially to the official television channels, dedicated to the president’s campaign, he battled on Twitter when his supporters tried to remobilize voters by door-to-door in the big cities.

At stake, the 8.3 million registrants who did not come on May 14 – despite a participation rate of 87%.

Faced with this discreet man of Alevi obedience – a branch of Islam considered heretical by the ultra Sunnis – Erdogan multiplied the meetingsbased on the transformations he has brought to the country since he came to power as Prime Minister in 2003, then as President since 2014.

The date of this second round, however, comes ten years to the day after the start of the great demonstrations of “Gezi” which, from Istanbul, spread throughout the country. First wave of anti-Erdogan protests, they had been severely repressed.

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