Meral Akşener and the Felicity Party to determine Turkey’s 2019 presidential election

Meral Akşener and the Felicity Party to determine Turkey’s 2019 presidential election

The presidential election of 2019 will be a turning point for Turkey, as it is then that the country will transition to the presidential system. After 2019, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants to rule the country for 10 more years through the system that he is the architect of. 

The opposition is aware of this. If it is able to keep Erdoğan under 50 percent in the first round of the election, it hopes to stop him from getting elected in the second round. So clearly 2019 will see either the start or the end of an era. It will clearly be an election of major significance. Turkey will not only be voting for a president in 2019, the election contains meanings beyond that.

Although two years still remain until 2019, the significance of this election is the reason behind the current calculations being made by the presidency. 

President Erdoğan is already trying to reduce all ambiguity and untangle the landscape in front of him. He is shaping his strategy according to the political landscape that he will face.

In the presidential election of 2014, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) nominated a cross-party candidate, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu. The key factor in that election, however, was the candidacy of jailed Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtaş. By receiving 9.6 percent of the vote, Demirtaş was able to block some of the “conservative Kurdish” votes that would have gone to Erdoğan. Even though he got some of Kurdish voters’ votes in the first round, there was no hugely enthusiastic support for Erdoğan among the Kurds (though many Kurdish voters would likely have voted for him if the election had gone to a second round). 
From the perspective of Turkey’s various political parties, there are many critical points that have to be considered about the upcoming presidential election.

For one thing, the parties that got their fingers burnt because of the cross-party candidacy of İhsanoğlu in the presidential election of 2014 will likely nominate their own candidates this time. What is important here is the attitude of the MHP. What will the party that teamed up with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to bring about the presidential system do? Will the MHP nominate its own candidate, or will it support Erdoğan in 2019?

As for the CHP, who will be its candidate? Will a new “Emmanuel Macron” be found, or will CHP chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu put himself forward?

Another possibility for the opposition is to forge a potential alliance with the HDP in the first round, similar to the CHP-MHP alliance in 2014. Will these two parties of the left join forces against Erdoğan by nominating a common candidate or by supporting Kılıçdaroğlu?

Finally, what about Meral Akşener, who is in the process of setting up a new center-ground party after leaving the MHP last year. And what about the religious conservative Felicity Party? The latter is only a small party but it will have an influence on the 2019 election because even one percent of the votes will matter. 

The situation with Akşener, meanwhile, could be a decisive key factor.

Her candidacy is now considered certain after her ally, former MHP deputy Koray Aydın, recently announced her candidacy. However, many remain skeptical about Akşener and are waiting for her to establish her new party and show what she is worth. Some also believe that her party could initially generate a bubble but will ultimately fizzle out in the coming two years.
Let’s wait and see.