Turkish citizens are casting their ballots today in a crucial presidential and parliamentary election that could determine the future of the country’s political system and its relations with the West.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been in power for nearly two decades, is seeking a third term in office amid a challenging economic and social situation. He faces a strong challenge from Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), who has promised to restore democracy and the rule of law.
The election is seen as one of the most consequential in Turkey’s modern history, as it will decide whether Erdogan will continue to wield sweeping executive powers that he acquired after a constitutional referendum in 2017. The referendum abolished the post of prime minister and gave the president the authority to appoint ministers, judges, and senior officials.
Erdogan’s popularity has been eroded by a series of crises, including a devastating earthquake in February that killed over 50,000 people and left millions homeless, a sharp rise in inflation and unemployment, and a strained relationship with the United States and the European Union over human rights and foreign policy issues.
Kilicdaroglu has accused Erdogan of mismanaging the economy, failing to respond adequately to the earthquake, and undermining Turkey’s secular and democratic values. He has pledged to reverse Erdogan’s constitutional changes and restore the parliamentary system, as well as to improve ties with Turkey’s allies and neighbors.
If neither candidate wins more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round, then it would trigger a runoff on May 28. The outcome of the election could also depend on the performance of smaller parties, such as the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the nationalist Good Party (IYI), which could tip the balance in favor of either Erdogan or Kilicdaroglu.
More than 64 million eligible voters are expected to participate in the election, which will also determine the composition of the 600-seat parliament. The polls opened at 8 am (0500 GMT) and will close at 5 pm (1400 GMT). Media organizations are barred from reporting partial results until an embargo is lifted at 9 pm (1800 GMT).