Turkey has voted in key elections that could end Erdogan’s 20-year rule

  • Years of economic crisis have eroded Erdogan’s support
  • Opinion polls have given opposition leader Kilicdaroglu a slight lead
  • Erdogan is a master campaigner with a loyal following

ISTANBUL, May 14 (Reuters) – Turks voted on Sunday in one of the most important elections in modern Turkey’s 100-year history, which could oust President Tayyip Erdogan and end his government’s increasingly authoritarian path or begin his third decade in power. .

The vote will determine not only who leads NATO-member Turkey of 85 million people, but also how it is governed, where its economy is headed amid a deep cost-of-living crisis, and the shape of its foreign policy. Unpredictable twists and turns.

Opinion polls give Erdoğan’s main challenger, Kemal Kilikdaroglu, who heads a coalition of six opposition parties, a slight lead, but a run-off election will be held on May 28 if one of them fails to win more than 50% of the vote.

Voters will also elect a new parliament between Erdogan’s conservative Islamist-rooted AK Party (AKP) and the People’s Alliance, which includes the nationalist MHP and others, and Kilikdaroğlu’s Nation coalition, which includes six opposition parties, including his secular Republican Party. (CHP), founded by Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Polls will start at 8 am (0500 GMT) and end at 5 pm (1400 GMT). Under Turkish law, there is a ban on announcing any results until 9 p.m. late Sunday, a good sign of whether the presidential runoff will go ahead.

In Diyarbakir, a city in the Kurdish southeast hit by a devastating earthquake in February, some said they voted for the opposition, while others voted for Erdogan.

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“The country needs a change,” said Nuri Can, 26, who cited Turkey’s economic crisis as the reason he voted for Klikdaroglu. “An economic crisis will be at the door again after the election, so I wanted a change.”

But Hayati Arslan, 51, said he voted for Erdogan and his AK Party.

“The country’s economic situation is not good, but I still believe that Erdogan will fix this situation. Turkey’s prestige abroad has reached a good level with Erdogan, and I want this to continue,” he said.

Queues formed at polling stations in the city, with around 9,000 police officers on duty across the province.

Many in provinces affected by the earthquake, which killed more than 50,000 people, have expressed anger at the slow initial government response, but there is little evidence that the issue has changed how people will vote.

Kurdish voters, who make up 15-20% of the electorate, will play an important role, and the National Alliance is unlikely to achieve a parliamentary majority on its own.

The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) is not part of the main opposition coalition, but remains fiercely opposed to Erdogan after a crackdown on its members in recent years.

HDP has announced its support for Kilicdaroglu in the presidential election. It is entering the parliamentary elections under the Small Green Left party’s symbol because of a court case filed by a top prosecutor seeking to ban the HDP over its links to Kurdish militants, which the party denies.

End of an era?

Erdogan, 69, is a powerful speaker and master campaigner who has pulled out all the stops on the campaign trail as he struggles to survive his difficult political ordeal. He commands fierce loyalty from devout Turks who once felt disenfranchised in secular Turkey and his political career has survived an attempted coup in 2016 and several corruption scandals.

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However, Turks’ ousting of Erdogan has seen their prosperity, equality and ability to meet basic needs decline, with inflation rising to 85% in October 2022 and a collapse in the lira currency.

Kilicdaroglu, a 74-year-old former civil servant, vows to return to orthodox economic policies from Erdogan’s heavy-handed administration if he wins.

Kilicdaroglu also says he is seeking to return the country to a parliamentary system of government, away from Erdogan’s executive presidency, which was passed in a 2017 referendum. He has also promised to restore the independence of the judiciary, which critics say Erdogan has used to suppress. Difference of opinion.

During his time in power, Erdogan has tightly controlled most of Turkey’s institutions, marginalizing liberals and critics. Human Rights Watch, in its World Report 2022, noted that Erdogan’s government has set back Turkey’s human rights record for decades.

If he wins, Kilicdaroglu faces the challenge of uniting an opposition coalition that includes nationalists, Islamists, secularists and liberals.

The final days of the campaign were marked by accusations of foreign interference.

Kilicdaroglu said his party had solid evidence of Russia’s responsibility for publishing “deeply fake” online content, which Moscow denied. Erdogan accused opposition parties of working together to topple US President Joe Biden. A US State Department spokesman said Washington does not take sides in elections.

Written by Alexandra Hudson Editing by Frances Kerry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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