Election in Turkey


Financial Times

Two politicians with very different ideals pit against each other in Turkey. The election could greatly change the Democracy of Turkey and the war in Ukraine.

The current President of Turkey, Recep Erdogan, has been in charge for over 9 years since 2014. On May 14th, the election deciding who will become the next president will take place. Erdogan is at risk of losing his position because of the Turkish people’s frustration with his mishandling of the economy.

Early in his presidency he did an admirable job building confidence in the Turkish economy by paying off foreign debt, implementing a series of infrastructure investments, and trying to control corruption. However, the country’s current economic woes date back to 2018 when he made the Turkish central bank less independent. Turkish currency (Lira) lost 44 percent of its value in 2021 and inflation hit a 25 year high of 86 percent in 2022.

Turkey’s economic problems arose mainly because Erdogan and his government continued to slash interest rates after the pandemic, even though most other countries were raising theirs. This caused demand for Lira to collapse.

To make matters worse, the President also announced a 50 percent hike in the country’s minimum wage. Contrary to conventional economic theory, Erdogan believed pushing interest rates lower would help alleviate the red hot inflation.

In a Yahoo news article, Hasan Cakir said, “We’re neck deep, even if I’m going to die because of it, I’m still not voting for him.” The 51 year old merchant had cast his ballot for Erdogan and his conservative AKP party at every election in the past 21 years. Like millions of others, he is planning to vote differently in this upcoming election.

In addition to the economic problems, Erdogan’s shrinking popularity stems from the perception that he failed to help the Turkish people after two massive earthquakes devastated Turkey 3 months ago. The earthquakes left tens of thousands of people dead and almost 3 million people displaced.

In an article by NBC News, Mehmet Demir, a resident from the southern city of Hatay who lost his home and wife during the earthquake said, “my wife could have been rescued if the emergency workers were present at the site on time,” adding “they arrived 3 days after the earthquakes.” He further went on to say “I’m not seeing any future for this country. This shows the resentment from the general public of people in Turkey and its current president.

Kamal Kilicdaroglu is the strongest opponent he faces in the election. Kilicdaroglu has been leader of the main opposition party since 2010 and has strong credibility to turn the country’s economy, giving his background as a trained economist and a retired civil servant with decades of experience. Kilicdaroglu has formed a coalition government with six parties known as the table of six.

It’s surprising to many that Erdogan might finally lose control. He has been in power for over 9 years and throughout the course of his presidency he has modified the government to secure more control. His party is called AKP (Justice and Development Party).

Previously, he was sent to jail for a short period of time due to inciting religious hatred. He is socially conservative and populist. Reducing the Central Bank’s independence is just one example of Erdogan’s steps to consolidate power. Under Erdogan’s rule, his government became increasingly authoritarian and he censored anti-government protests including the press and social media. He’s even purged several secular government bureaucrats and military leaders.

This upcoming election is important as future policies under Kilicdaroglu could look very different than those under Erdogan. Kilicdaroglu has shown to be more pro-western.

In a recent article by Deutsche Welle (DW), Kilicdaroglu has been quoted saying, he wants to turn foreign policy around “180 degrees” and bring true Democracy to this country [Turkey]. Kilicdaroglu also said, “we will fulfill people’s longing for Democracy. That’s the biggest change and it won’t only be seen here in Turkey, but by the whole world.” Kilicdaroglu shows he wants to apply proper freedoms to not only the Turkish people, but spread to people around the world.

Some big changes we might see could include Turkey no longer standing in the way of other European countries’ attempts to join NATO (e.g Finland). It might also reduce Turkey’s support of Putin in the Ukraine wars. We might also see an improvement in civil rights. In the same article of Deutsche Welle (DW) Kilicdaroglu also said, “no one should be in jail because of their thoughts.” This shows Kilicdaroglu is clearly against oppression from the Government.

Erdogan, for his part, accused the United States of trying to interfere in the election. In a Washington Post article Erdogan is quoted saying, “Biden instructed, ‘We need to bring down Erdogan’.” He also said in a speech on Saturday “tomorrow, the ballot boxes will give Biden an answer as well.” Erdogan’s attitude shows he doesn’t want to admit that he has a possibility of losing the election.

Erdogan has a penchant for political survival. Some analysts and observers are concerned he may even go as far as to cancel the election. From a Washington Post article, Erdogan responded in a nationally televised interview with journalists Friday “this is a very silly question. We came to power in Turkey through a Democratic way. We came to power with the trust of our people. Just as we came to power with the favor of our people, that is, if our nation makes a different decision, we will do exactly that, whatever the necessity of Democracy. There is nothing else to do.” Erdogan wants to ensure Democracy in Turkey.