Turkey's rare opposition alliance poses serious challenge for Erdoğan - NY Times

Turkish opposition parties have come together in a rare alliance that could for the first time, in his 16 years in power, pose a serious challenge  for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as he attempts to retain his seat in the June 24 elections after which a executive presidential system will grant vastly expanded powers, says Carlotta Gall in an article she penned for the New York Times.

“I see a huge desire for change,” Gall quotes Republican People’s Party candidate Muharrem Ince as saying while highlighting that this spirit has become increasingly evident throughout the nation.

However, with reliable pollsters and analysts expecting an exceptionally close presidential race, chances appear to be around 50-50 for a second round in which the top contenders will face off.

‘’The opposition is even, for the first time, organizing an operation to count the entire national vote independently, to counter any attempt at vote rigging,’’ Gall points out; however, Erdogan’s skilled campaigning and shrewd politics cannot be overlooked.

Turkey’s strongan is running a campaign on nationalist themes, blaming terrorism and the West for Turkey’s economic woes — rising unemployment, inflation and a falling lira — and vaunting his social and building programs, the article explains.

Turkey’s four opposition parties have banded together, supporting each other’s candidates, even offering a hand to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), whose leader, Selahattin Demirtas, is in jail on various charges, from terrorism to insulting the president, the article recalls.

At this point even government officials are acknowledging that Mr. Erdogan’s alliance, which his Justice and Development Party (AKP) formed with the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), may fall short of the majority it’s eyeing in parliament.

There is talk that if Erdoğan won the presidency but failed to win a majority in Parliament, he might even call new elections again.

Since a failed coup in 2016, Turkey has been ruled under a state of emergency that has allowed Erdogan to dominate the media and all government institutions, including the Supreme Election Council, the article points out.

In the presidential referendum last year, over 5,000 ballot boxes had no observers and 20,000 boxes were included in the count without a result sheet.

This time around; however, presidential hopeful İnce, along with right-wing nationalist İYİ (Good) Party presidential candidate Meral Akşener, has called on an army of volunteer lawyers to help challenge any fraud.

In March, Turkey’s parliament passed sweeping changes to election laws designed to strengthen Erdoğan’s grip on power. The legal amendments allow for authorities to appoint government officials to run polling stations, let security services monitor voting, relocate ballot boxes on security grounds and permit the counting of unstamped ballot papers.