May 14 2018

Erdoğan hints at defeat ahead of ‘unusually combative’ election race - analysis

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has won almost every election since his leading Justice and Development Party (AKP) to power in 2002, may be facing his toughest election challenge yet as opposition parties switch into high gear ahead of the June 24 presidential and parliamentary elections, Thomas Seibert says in an article in the Arab Weekly.

Erdoğan is aiming not only to retain his seat in the upcoming presidential elections, but also to expand his powers as the old parliamentary system will be replaced with an executive presidency after the polls. However, reaching these goals may prove prove harder than expected.

‘’What had looked like an easy race for the 64-year-old leader in theory is turning into a nail-biter. Some polls indicate that Erdoğan could lose his parliamentary majority, the presidency, or both, developments that would usher in a new era for a NATO country and a Middle Eastern player at a geostrategic juncture between East and West,’’ Seibert writes.

Just last week opposition leaders and critics picked up on an anti-Erdoğan theme, making “tamam” — the Turkish word for “enough” used by Erdoğan in a recent speech — their rallying motto. ‘’Tamam’’ trended on Twitter, hitting 500,000 tweets within just a few hours.

‘’Turkey’s opposition is unusually combative. Muharrem Ince, the presidential candidate of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), is challenging Erdogan by portraying himself as a leader who can bring people together, instead of dividing them,’’ Seibert explains.

Meanwhile, another strong opposition candidate is nationalist Meral Aksener, who polls suggest is attracting disillusioned AKP voters.

And then there’s the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), whose presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş remains in pre-trial detention under charges of lending support to militant Kurdish separatists. The HDP is receiving about 10 percent support according to the latest polls, enough to pass the parliamentary threshold.

With the economy in a highly questionable state, the odds appear to be stacked up agains the Turkish strongman, the article says.

Even a new foray into Syria may not ignite nationalist sentiment in favour of Erdoğan and his AKP in the face of stubbornly high unemployment and a lack of enthusiasm among his own base, Seibert explains.

The Turkish president last week in Parliament said, "If one day our nation says 'enough', then we will step aside," in an unusual hint that losing his seat is an possibility.