Turkey’s surprisingly calm elections

Turkey’s surprisingly calm elections

There are slightly more than three weeks to go until one of Turkey’s most important elections. Around 60 million people in the Turkish electorate will vote for the country’s executive-president and for the 600-seat parliament in the June 24 elections. With intensified pre-election rallies and political activities in the last few weeks, there are important snapshots about the polls and its results.

One of the key issues is the fact that June 24 will be an election on the fundamentals of Turkey, rather than of cliché social and economic promises: The People’s Alliance, formed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has hit its election with the motto of “Strong Government, Strong Parliament” in reference to the implementation of the executive-presidential system.

The Nation Alliance, formed by the Republican People’s Party (CHP), İYİ (Good) Party, and Felicity Party (SP), however, underlines that their priority will be the re-installation of the parliamentary system by strengthening it through democracy, rule of law, and human rights.

The leaders of the Nation Alliance are planning to come together next week to draft a road map about the moves to be taken after the composition of the new parliament for the re-establishment of the parliamentary system. The İYİ Party’s Meral Akşener seems to have approved of CHP chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s suggestion that the Nation Alliance should continue to keep its unity following the June 24 elections.

This meeting will be possible upon the call of Akşener, who is likely to undertake some changes in her election strategy, as the CHP’s presidential candidate Muharrem İnce has already taken the lead over her in the race to be qualified for the second round of presidential elections if none of the contenders can make it in the first round.

Ince’s performance, both in televised interviews and election rallies, is much better than presumed. However, it is not only his performance that assures him this place. For more than a week, the AKP chair and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have been deliberately addressing comments only from İnce, in a strategy to turn this race into a binary election with the CHP.

He has a reason for this: He has won all of the elections since 2002 against the CHP and its candidates. But it is apparent that this strategy works well to İnce’s advantage, whose votes in the presidential elections will likely surpass the votes of the CHP in the parliamentary polls.

Erdoğan’s plans to be elected as president either in the first or second round will be a little complicated if İnce’s individual votes are higher than 25 percent on June 24. Therefore, one might suggest Erdoğan will turn to Akşener in the coming days in a balancing act.

One of the silent parties of the election campaign is the MHP and its leader Devlet Bahçeli. It seems they will secure a few dozen seats in parliament thanks to their alliance with the AKP but Bahçeli’s insistence on issuing an amnesty for ultra-nationalist criminals has created anger and concerns at the AKP headquarters. AKP officials do even not want to hear about Bahçeli’s calls on amnesty as they perfectly know that it causes a public reaction.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), on the other hand, is confident that it will surpass the 10 percent threshold despite all sorts of difficulties. It is also believed that a sizeable bonus of votes will be transferred from the CHP to the HDP so the latter can enter parliament to avoid the People’s Alliance majority. Kılıçdaroğlu’s remarks in an interview earlier this week that the HDP should pass the threshold have been regarded as a signal to this end.

With three weeks left until the elections, a general observation would suggest Turkey is passing through an unexpectedly silent and calm election campaign. Yet, three weeks is a very long period of time in Turkish politics.

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