Turkey’s Erdogan succumbs to rival in fiercest re-election fight

ISTANBUL – Turkey runs the polls on Sunday with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan keeping a close eye on his main rival as another candidate’s last-minute retreat raises the risk of re-war the most difficult election of his career, analysts said. Erdogan, 69, Turkey’s longest-serving leader, is seeking to prolong his two-decade rule with the support of strong conservatives and religious forces across the country this Muslim country.

But this weekend’s presidential and parliamentary elections have turned into a referendum on his government style and unorthodox economic policies. Many of Turkey’s 64 million eligible voters are grappling with a cost-of-living crisis caused by soaring inflation.

Several previous polls had put Erdogan on a par with his biggest rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a 74-year-old former civil servant and economist backed by the six-party Nation Alliance.

But on Thursday, a survey by Konda, Turkey’s top polling firm, showed left-wing Kilicdaroglu leading Erdogan by 5.6 percentage points, up nearly four percentage points from with the previous month.

The closely watched poll shows Mr Erdogan, leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), with 43.7% of voters nationwide, compared with Kilicdaroglu with 49.3%. That lead, however, is still slightly below the 50% minimum a candidate needs to win the presidency in the first round and avoid a run-off on May 28.

In a television interview broadcast on more than 20 television channels on Friday, Erdogan dismissed any suggestion that he would not respect the election results.

“What a ridiculous question,” he said. “We came to power through democratic means… Just as we came to power with the support of the people, if the people make a different decision [this time], we will do whatever what democracy requires.”

After Thursday’s poll was released, Muharrem Ince, one of four presidential candidates, announced his abrupt withdrawal from the race. Ince, Erdogan’s main rival in the 2018 election, received only about 2.2% nationally, down sharply from 10% in early April. Many of his supporters will likely support Kilicdaroglu at the expense of Erdogan. Aydin Erdem, CEO, said: “Abandoning the race will increase Kilicdaroglu’s chances of winning in the first round, as our polls show that around two-thirds of Ince supporters have propensity to vote for Kilicdaroglu in a potential second round”.

But even if the numbers stay the same, the results are still unclear. Erdem said another presidential candidate, the nationalist Sinan Ogan, won about 4.8% of the vote in the poll.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains popular despite the country’s severe economic difficulties; Hundreds of thousands of people took part in an election rally on May 7 in Istanbul.

In the race for parliament, the Konda survey found Erdogan’s People’s Coalition with 44%, the National Coalition with 39.9% and the pro-Kurdish Union of Labor and Freedom. holds the rest at 12.3%, making it the potential king. If the mostly right-wing People’s Coalition wins a majority of about 600 seats in parliament – or close to the threshold that would lead to a hung parliament – it could allow Erdogan to maintain his grip on power in the event of an election. there’s a second presidential tower,” Erdem said. “Erdogan would argue, in the interest of continued stability, that he should also have the presidency to avoid clashing with congress and clogging the system,” he said.

On Wednesday, Erdogan’s foreign policy adviser and spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, warned of the risks posed by an executive president and legislature split between opposition parties.

“Looking at Turkey’s past political culture, traditions and practices, I see that there is a potential for crisis,” he told local television.
The Turkish opposition has vowed to reverse some of Mr. Erdogan’s key policies, including the introduction of a stronger executive presidential system in 2018, which critics say has undermined Mr. wear off control and balance to him.

Since then, the lira has fallen from around 4.5 against the US dollar to 19.5, while Erdogan’s insistence on adopting an extremely loose monetary policy aimed at cutting interest rates despite inflation The high growth caused the economy to fall into a spiral.

Türkiye’s annual inflation rate hit 85% in October. While that number currently stands at a moderate 43 percent, soaring prices of groceries and key consumer goods – as well as housing – are weighing heavily on Erdogan’s re-election bid, even in a stronghold. like Sivas. In 2018, Erdogan’s approval rating was around 72 percent in a city of about 630,000 in the conservative heartland of central Turkey.

When the city’s first high-speed rail line opened last month, linking Sivas with the capital Ankara, Mr. Erdogan’s support was still clear to supporters. They praised his success in ending the ban on the Muslim headscarf in universities and offices, as well as his efforts in strengthening transport and health infrastructure, as well as the defense industry.

But economic hardship is hurting the popularity of Mr. Erdogan – who won the 2018 race in the first round with 52.6% of the vote – even among some of his ardent supporters. .

Dogukan, a 29-year-old taxi driver in Sivas who has complained about skyrocketing rents in his city, said: “In the past, I always voted for Erdogan, but this time I won’t vote just because state of the economy”.

Fears of a crackdown on dissidents and citizenship have added to the challenges of Mr. Erdogan’s re-election.
Associate professor Seda Demiralp, dean of Isik University’s department of relations, said: “Economic dissatisfaction is the main reason for leaving the ruling party and government, along with other minor factors such as the decline of democracy.

But she added that “shy” right-wing voters can always come forward and change the form of the election for Erdogan”. Given Erdogan’s previous election success, some warn that it is too early to write a political obituary for him. “It would be too early to unsubscribe from Erdogan,” said Emre Peker, Europe director at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group. “Especially if the presidential election ends in the second round.”

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