On May 14th, Turkish citizens will head to the polls to cast their vote in the presidential and parliamentary elections. This election marks an important turning point in Turkey’s political history, as the country takes steps towards a more executive-style presidency with expanded powers for the winning candidate.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the current President and leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), is seeking a second term in office. Since taking office in 2014, Erdoğan has implemented policies that have both strengthened and divided the country.
Erdoğan’s populist approach to governance has garnered him a significant base of supporters. His party has been in power since 2002 and has been credited with leading Turkey through an era of increased economic growth and social stability. However, his critics accuse him of using authoritarian tactics to maintain his hold on power and suppressing dissenting voices.
One example of this is the crackdown on independent media following the failed coup attempt in 2016. Over 150 news outlets have been shut down and over 100 journalists have been jailed. This prompted concerns from the international community about the state of press freedom in Turkey.
Erdoğan has also been accused of suppressing opposition parties. In the lead-up to the election, several opposition candidates have been barred from running or imprisoned, including Selahattin Demirtaş, the former leader of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
Despite these concerns, Erdoğan remains popular among his base, in part due to his strong stance on issues such as security and Turkey’s relations with its neighbors. He has taken a hard line against the Kurdish separatist movement, the PKK, and has been praised for his handling of the Syrian refugee crisis and his support of Palestine.
Erdoğan’s campaign has been marked by his promises to further modernize Turkey’s economy and infrastructure, and to create jobs for the country’s burgeoning youth population. He has also pledged to expand Turkey’s global influence, positioning the country as a leader in the Middle East and beyond.
However, critics argue that Erdoğan’s policies have had a negative impact on the economy, particularly in terms of inflation, high levels of debt, and a decline in the value of the Turkish lira. They also point to the country’s strained relations with the European Union and the United States, and the impact this has had on Turkey’s international standing.
Another issue facing Turkey is its relationship with NATO. Erdoğan has been critical of the alliance and its role in the region, particularly in the fight against ISIS. Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian-made S-400 missile systems has further strained its relationship with the US and other NATO members.
Despite these challenges, Erdoğan remains confident of victory in the upcoming election. However, the outcome of the parliamentary vote is less certain. The opposition parties have formed an alliance in an attempt to unseat the AKP, and there is concern that a split vote could result in a hung parliament.
If Erdoğan is successful in securing a second term, Turkey will continue on its path towards a more executive-style presidency. This would give the President greater control over the country’s budget and judiciary, as well as the power to issue presidential decrees that could bypass parliament.
Critics warn that this would further erode Turkey’s fragile democracy, particularly given the crackdown on civil liberties and opposition voices in recent years. However, supporters argue that this is necessary for ensuring stability, particularly given Turkey’s location in a volatile region.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, it is clear that Turkey faces significant challenges in the years ahead. The country must navigate its increasingly complex relationship with NATO, its fragile economy, and its concerns about security and stability in the region.
The role of President Erdoğan in addressing these challenges will be critical, particularly given the expanded powers he is seeking. However, to ensure the long-term stability of the country, it will be vital to address the concerns of those who feel marginalized or suppressed by his government, and to ensure that all citizens have a voice in the democratic process.
The upcoming election may well shape the future of Turkey for years to come, and will be watched closely by the international community as a bellwether for the state of democracy and stability in the region.