Turks are heading to the polls on May 14 to elect a new president and parliament in a crucial election that will shape the country’s future as a democracy and a regional power.
The election comes at a time of economic crisis, political polarization and growing security challenges for Turkey, which is involved in conflicts in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, and faces strained relations with the West and its neighbors.
The incumbent president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has ruled the country for nearly two decades, is seeking a third term in office under a new executive presidential system that grants him sweeping powers. He is running as the leader of the People’s Alliance, a coalition of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and several nationalist and Islamist parties.
His main challenger is Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), who heads the Table of Six alliance, a diverse group of secular, nationalist and conservative parties. The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has decided not to field a presidential candidate and instead supports the opposition alliance.
The election is expected to be a tight race, as opinion polls suggest that Erdogan’s popularity has declined due to the economic downturn, the coronavirus pandemic and his authoritarian policies. According to a recent poll by Ipsos, 90 percent of Turks are struggling to make ends meet amid soaring inflation, unemployment and currency depreciation. The poll also showed that Turkey was the most pessimistic country among 11 surveyed countries about its economic outlook.
The election will also test Turkey’s democratic credentials, as critics accuse Erdogan of undermining the rule of law, cracking down on dissent, controlling the media and manipulating the judiciary. The opposition has vowed to restore democracy, human rights and the independence of institutions if they win.
The election will also have implications for Turkey’s foreign policy, as Erdogan has pursued a more assertive and independent stance that has often clashed with the interests of NATO allies, especially the United States and the European Union. The opposition has called for a more balanced and constructive approach that would improve Turkey’s relations with its partners and neighbours.
The election will be held under a high-security environment. More than 64 million Turks are eligible to vote in over 180,000 polling stations across the country. The results are expected to be announced on the same day.