Sunday Will Reveal Turkiye’s Crucial Presidential and Legislative Polls

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turkiye, turk elections, president revep tayipp erdogan, kemal kilicdaroglu, politics, world politics

turkiye, turk elections, president revep tayipp erdogan, kemal kilicdaroglu, politics, world politics

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Turks will go to the polls on Sunday to cast their votes in the presidential and parliamentary elections that are expected to have a divisive and lasting impact on the society.

Opinion polls project tight races in both elections, with the future of Turkiye firmly on the ballot. If no presidential candidate secures more than 50% of the vote, a runoff will be held on May 28.

Sitting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his main opposition challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu are frontrunners in the race for the country’s top job, with right-wing politician Sinan Ogan a distant third. Muharrem Ince, the fourth contender until recently, dropped out of the race on Thursday.

Kilicdaroglu, the candidate of a six-party opposition coalition and leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), is largely seen as the toughest challenge to Erdogan’s rule in more than two decades. He has pledged to reverse Erdogan’s reforms and turn Turkiye back into a parliamentary democracy.

Erdogan, who is seeking a stronger role for Turkiye in the world politics, has criticized the West for openly backing his rival. The 74-year-old opposition leader met publicly with US ambassador Jeff Flake in April and has been billed as a democratic alternative to Erdogan’s “authoritarianism” by most Western media.

Kilicdaroglu’s victory is certain to trigger an outpouring of goodwill toward Turkiye from the West but there will not be as radical a change in their relationship as some in the EU and the US are hoping and Ankara’s ties with Moscow will likely remain the same, Turkiye expert Gareth Jenkins told Sputnik.

“If Kilicdaroglu wins, I don’t expect any dramatic change in policy towards Russia. Turkiye is unlikely, for example, to follow the US and the EU in imposing sanctions on Russia and is expected to continue Erdogan’s policy of trying to maintain relations with both Russia and Ukraine,” he predicted.

Jenkins, a non-resident senior fellow at the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm, suggested that, if Erdogan remains in power, relations between Turkiye and the West will stay frosty or even worsen. But whoever wins the elections, it will be by a small margin, which will leave Turkiye a very much divided society.

Erdogan’s chances of winning would have been stronger if he could deal efficiently with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, Washington-based Turkish academician Birol Baskan told Sputnik. Inflation in Turkiye has been surging on the back of unorthodox rate cuts since 2021, eroding households’ savings and the president’s popularity.

“It will be a very tight race. I think both sides have equal chances of winning. Erdogan could have won easily if he fought rising cost of living more effectively. But, he could not,” the non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute said.

The pundit suggested that if Kilicdaroglu won presidency he would have to find a way to deal with runaway inflation without hurting economic growth. He also predicted a more amicable relationship between Turkiye and the West but also Syria as well as continuation of economic cooperation with Russia.

“I do not expect any major change [in Russia policy]. Russia is, has always been, and will be Turkiye’s most critical neighbor. Deep economic interests tie both countries. I do not see any reason why Kilicdaroglu [should] sacrifice Turkiye’s relations with Russia for anything else,” Baskan said.

Most opinion polls suggest a narrow parliamentary vote, in which Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is likely to emerge as the largest party but fail to retain an overall majority. But even if AKP and its nationalist MHP ally lose control of the parliament it will likely be by a very thin margin, leaving the opposition coalition of at least six parties to figure out their different political priorities.

“Whatever the outcome of the parliamentary elections, I doubt very much whether it will contribute to the sustained stability that the country badly needs,” Jenkins added.





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