Turkey heads to a new era after key Sunday polls
Turkey will go to the polls on Sunday in one of its most decisive votes ever, electing both the president and the parliament. The two-month pre-election campaign will end this weekend, leaving the final word to around 60 million registered voters.
A brief overview on the language used and promises delivered by the presidential and parliamentary candidates leaves no question that June 25 will mark a new era for the Turkish politics and for Turkey.
Turkey’s governance system will be officially and effectively be shifted into the executive-presidency with the election of the new president who will accumulate important amount of authorities in his or her hands.
The office of the prime minister will be abolished and parliament will have to draft its own working regulations in the post-election era, in line with the new government system. (It should not be forgotten that the government has not yet used the authority pledged by the government that allows it to harmonize certain laws through decree laws in line with the last year’s constitutional amendments, prompting questions about why it has delayed all these works.)
The question is now who will use all these powers in the new system? President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been ruling Turkey since late 2002, seems to be the strongest candidate for the presidency with around 45 percent popular support. Main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) candidate Muharrem İnce has staged an unexpectedly successful campaign and managed to create what he calls a “deep wave” behind him. He will likely attract more votes than his party, with estimations that he will exceed 25 percent of the vote.
İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener’s performance has remained under the shadow of İnce’s bid, but her ability to respond to the demands of the low-income classes with populist promises will likely bring her around 10 percent of the vote. Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) candidate Selahattin Demirtaş, who has had to campaign behind bars, is expected to receive around 10 percent of the vote.
The key point is whether the president will be elected in the first round or whether the two top candidates will have to go to a runoff, which would mark another first for Turkish politics. If Erdoğan cannot win in the first round, the opposition will likely interpret this as a great chance to defeat him in the second round and unite around İnce for a second round on June 8.
This psychology in the opposition could be further strengthened if the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) alliance fails to win a majority at parliament. Credible public opinion polls suggest a very tight race between the AKP-MHP alliance and the opposition alliance. They also indicate that the HDP will pass the 10 percent threshold: Bad news for the AKP, which could otherwise increase the number of seats it would win.
Another key aspect is about election security because of the amended Election Law, which paves the way for the relocation of ballot boxes “due to security reasons” in a number of eastern and southeastern provinces. The law has drawn fierce criticisms from the opposition as it empowers local public servants as the head of ballot box committees, while also allowing the intervention of law enforcement in the voting area again due to security reasons. Both the ruling and opposition parties have announced that they are taking their own measures to keep the polls safe, with both sides employing tens of thousands of people on election day.
The whole election campaign has once again shown us how damaging the lack of free and objective media in Turkey is. Many candidates and political parties have not been able to find a way to be heard by the public through either state or private broadcasters and have been subjected to a strict blackout. Erdoğan and his senior party officials have dominated the media, utterly tilting the playing field.
Questions will find their answers late on June 24 but one thing is pretty certain: Turkey will be entering a very new era, whether through a change in the political leadership or through a change in the government system.