Presidential elections without oppositional candidates

Presidential elections without oppositional candidates

Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu will be in Essen, Germany on June 7 to address Turks residing in Germany and other corners of Europe, to convince them to vote for the candidate that the social democrat party will appoint for the Aug. 10 polls. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did the same thing on May 24 as he visited the German city of Cologne to ask Turks living abroad to vote for the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) candidate.

Erdoğan will make another tour to Europe between June 22 and 24, this time to Austria and France, where some half a million Turks reside. It’s not yet sure whether the ruling party will be able to announce its presidential candidate before these dates.

The whole of Turkey is discussing the presidential elections, but no any party has yet announced its candidate for the most prestigious post of the Turkish state. The Supreme Elections Council (YSK) has announced that it will accept official nominations starting from June 29 until July 3, with the official commencement of the campaign slated for July 11. Although there is still time for parties to continue consultations, it’s also important to see that the time is getting thin, especially for opposition parties who have less access and communication means compared to the AKP. 

The CHP’s Kılıçdaroğlu said he was not of the opinion that his party was getting late in announcing its candidate, but hinted that the decision could be announced soon after consultations with other political parties, particularly with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The two parties have long been pondering a joint candidate to stand against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but the impression that the two parties are giving is that they are unable to nominate a strong personality against Erdoğan. A potential failure to agree to a joint candidate would further strengthen this impression. On the one hand, it’s normal for the opposition parties to wait for the ruling party’s announcement with regard to the presidential elections, but further delaying this process will not work to their advantage.

On the ruling party side, things are getting more planned and organized. As some AKP officials put it, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s candidacy is 95 percent sure. And the campaign has already started with some populist announcements such as issuing an “across-the-board amnesty for public debt owners.” 

According to the draft law, a number of debts - from traffic tickets to unpaid taxes, from social security insurance premium penalties to election penalties - will be restructured, while administrative fees below 120 Turkish Liras, apart from people breaking the smoking penalty, will also be erased.

 It’s also visible that Erdoğan is developing a dual language with regard to ongoing Kurdish peace process. On the one hand, he continues to inject optimism through his close-circle men, like Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, who signaled that the government could consider legal steps as part of the updated road map over the process.

 On the other hand, he depicts himself as a nationalist leader harshly slamming Kurdish political parties and using a very sharply-worded language against their leaders. It’s highly likely that Erdoğan will use issues like “kidnapped children” more frequently throughout the process in order to appeal to nationalist votes. In the meantime, Erdoğan is also conducting intense work to shape the AKP’s future and to decide who to appoint as the new chairman and prime minister. However, despite all of these well-prepared organizations, one question remains on Erdoğan’s side: Will he be able to get 50 percent of votes in the first round after polarizing and dividing the society into different camps?