Turkey goes to the polls this Sunday: Do you think that the fight between Kiliçdaroglu and Erdogan will be decisive in stopping the authoritarian drift and improving relations with the EU?
If Kilicdaroglu wins, yes. All opposition parties are committed to restoring the parliamentary system that existed until Erdogan replaced it in favor of the all-powerful presidential system. The EU will certainly welcome the new democratic order in Turkey and Kilicdaroglu has pledged to improve relations with Europe as a priority and even revive efforts to get Turkey into EU membership. In addition, a Kilicdaroglu-led government will improve relations with NATO and the US.
Kiliçdaroglu has lost to Erdogan in nine elections. Does he think that this time it can be different and thus break a “reign” of two decades in Turkey?
Unlike Erdogan, Kilicdaroglu is not a charismatic politician. However, he has run a clever campaign, among other things recognizing his Alevi identity,
What main factors could give Kiliçdaroglu victory? Could the new movement of Gen Z voters also tip the scales in favor of the opposition?
In past elections, the opposition was divided, making it difficult to defeat Erdogan. Thanks to Kilicdaroglu’s efforts, a six-party coalition is campaigning to end the Erdogan era. One advantage for Kilicdaroglu is support for the pro-Kurdish Yesil Sol party. Kurdish support for Kilicdaroglu could well tip the scales in his favor. It should be emphasized that Erdogan has the considerable advantage of being in office and the core support of millions of religious conservative voters who favor his Islamic agenda. Furthermore, his control of almost 90% of Turkish media owned by his cronies gives Erdogan a crucial advantage. Yes, new voters could certainly make a difference by favoring the electoral prospects of opposition parties. They are disenchanted by poor economic conditions, including skyrocketing inflation.
Regarding Erdogan, do you think the mismanagement of the government’s response to the catastrophic earthquakes in south-eastern Turkey harms the incumbent president?
Yes, definitely! The government’s ineffective response contributed to the loss of thousands of lives. In addition, the earthquake exposed serious mismanagement of safety regulations and cronyism in the construction sector that strongly supports Erdogan. Less certain is whether these negative aspects would tip the balance in favor of the opposition.
Since a small margin of votes will determine the results, according to the latest polls, the losing side is likely to hold post-election protests. Do you think this could hinder a period of peaceful transition and increase authoritarian tendencies?
In fact, it could hamper the prospects for a peaceful balance. There is also the possibility that Erdogan will question the results of an opposition victory, claim wrongdoing and fraud and refuse to cede power. His intimidation tactics, such as arresting mostly Kurdish media representatives and officials wrongly accused of breaking the law, have raised fears of post-election turbulence if the opposition wins.