The Another

    ‘Erdogan is weakened, but still doing better than expected’



    Polling station at the Turkish Consulate General in Hürth, near Cologne, Germany, on April 27, 2023. Turks abroad were able to vote in the presidential and parliamentary elections until May 9.

    The first round of the Turkish presidential election was held on Sunday, May 14. The vote pitted the incumbent, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, against two opponents. The main one is Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, a 74-year-old economist and candidate for the Republican People’s Party (CHP, social democrat) leading a six-party coalition. The second is Sinan Ogan, 55, who represented an alliance of four nationalist movements.

    Parliamentary elections were also held on Sunday, when voters were expected to renew the 600 seats of the Turkish Grand National Assembly.

    What are the prospects for the second round of the presidential elections in Turkey, after a close first round? Marie Jégo, form correspond for The world in Turkey and journalist at the International Service, has the answers to all your questions.

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    Vincent: What are the chances for Kemal Kiliçdaroglu?

    Marie Jego: His chances are quite slim. The outsider Sinan Ogan, who received 5.3% of the vote, has not yet given any instructions for his votes to be carried over. He will be wooed by both sides. His ultimatum: He will give the instruction to vote for Kiliçdaroglu on condition that Kiliçdaroglu renounces his links with the HDP, the pro-Kurdish party.

    Moreover, Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to be in a strong position for the second round, particularly because the preliminary results of the parliamentary elections show a parliamentary majority for the ruling alliance (AKP + MHP + Hüda Par).

    Vivier56: What would be the major changes for women if Erdogan was not successful?

    Turkey could revive the Istanbul Convention, which protects women from domestic violence, a huge problem in Turkey. Erdogan unilaterally denounced the Istanbul Convention – signed in Istanbul in 2011 – 10 years later in July 2021. This decision has been criticized by many women, including within the AKP, the presidential party.

    Ana: How do you explain the fact that the catastrophic mismanagement of the earthquake by President Erdogan was not a factor at the ballot box?

    You are right, this is one of the major surprises of this vote, especially in the Hatay (Antakya) region, which is very devastated and whose inhabitants, the majority of whom are Alevis (the largest religious minority in Turkey), said they would not give their vote to Erdogan. It is reasonable to suspect fraud, as it is not known how the vote could be held normally in this very devastated region.

    How were the lists made, were the voters able to vote normally? In other regions such as Maras, Adiyaman, Gaziantep, Urfa, which voted for the AKP, you can understand that the promises of largesse made by Erdogan (rapid reconstruction, rehousing of disaster victims, reinforced social aid) may have played a role.

    Hello: The opposition parties and the CHP contested this result late in the evening and even claimed they were ahead of Erdogan. Is there any news about this?

    The opposition was furious because the AKP kept demanding recounts, sometimes up to 11 times, in almost all the constituencies where Kiliçdaroglu was leading, which is pure obstruction. At this time, it should be noted that the Central Election Commission (YSK) has still not officially announced the results, precisely because recounts are still taking place and these votes have not been included in the results. But this will not change much for Kiliçdaroglu. There will be a second round, for sure.

    Selim Fast: Even if Kiliçdaroglu wins the election in the second round, what would be his room for maneuver without a majority in Parliament?

    His room for maneuver would be large, since the parliament has become a mere chamber of record, like Vladimir Putin’s Duma in Russia, since the constitutional reform adopted by referendum in 2017, which tipped the country from a parliamentary system to a hyper-presidential system , without any counterpower. The president, who is also prime minister, is all-powerful, governing by decree.

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    Victory for Kiliçdaroglu in the second round would appear to be undermined by the good results of the legislative elections for the ruling coalition, which seems to have kept its majority in parliament. Psychologically, this will affect the choice of voters in the second round of the presidential election. They will say to themselves that Erdogan is the master, he is the guarantor of continuity.

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    Lionel: How reliable are these results and is there any chance that the opposition will win?

    In the morning, the Central Election Commission had still not officially announced the results. The counting of ballots from Turks abroad (1.4 million) was not quite finished. In general, these votes are in favor of Erdogan and his party. The recount in the constituencies favorable to Kiliçdaroglu was not finished either, as the AKP obstructed it, demanding that the ballots be recounted more than 10 times. But all of this was not really going to change the situation.

    These are really the two sides of Turkey facing each other in every election. The coast is more liberal, the center more conservative. More than a choice between two candidates, the voters have to choose between two ways of life. Religious conservative, Sunni, in favor of vertical power, patriarchy and anti-Westernism on the one hand and more open, consensual and pro-Western on the other. Bekir Bozdag, Erdogan’s justice minister, summed it up well when he said before the election, “On May 15, Turks will drink champagne or bow down on the prayer rug.”

    Frank Zappa: Are we talking about the failure of the polling institutes? I was under the impression that the opposition candidate could win in the first round and yet it was Erdogan who almost did.

    Indeed, your remark is right, the polling institutes proved to be unreliable since they predicted a much more negative result for Erdogan than what actually happened. This shows how the Erdogan machine for winning elections (more than 10 elections won since 2002) still has a lot of power. Erdogan is weakened because this is the first time he has not been elected in the first round. Nevertheless, he is doing better than expected and his party is in good shape in the legislative elections.

    So the analysts and pollsters were wrong. They did not consider to what extent the traditional electorate was still under the control of the propaganda poured on the pro-government television channels. And also how much Erdogan abused the resources of his position. For example, between April 1 and May 11, on the public television channel TRT, the outgoing president was given 48 hours of airtime, compared with barely 32 minutes for Kiliçdaroglu.

    Supporters of incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on May 15, 2023.

    Wolf: What analysis do you make of the carryover of votes from the third candidate in the first round, Sinan Ogan?

    This is the great unknown. Let’s remember that Ogan, a far-right politician, has not given any instructions yet for the second round. He is going to pay a lot of money for his breakthrough in the presidential election, and he will certainly be courted. This morning, he told the German daily Der Spiegel that he would call for a vote for Kiliçdaroglu if he renounced his support for the pro-Kurdish HDP party (renamed YSP for this election, because the HDP is threatened with a ban). This poses an impossible choice for Kiliçdaroglu, who has received many votes from the Kurdish electorate.

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    2GT7: Is there a link between voting for Edogan and the socio-economic level of the constituencies?

    Certainly. The coastal regions, the big cities in the west, which have been won over by the CHP, are certainly richer than the regions of the Black Sea or central Anatolia. Traditionally, the coasts – Aegean and Mediterranean – are more favorable to the CHP. This is an economically active electorate (tourism, services, small SMEs), which was certainly counting on the election of Kiliçdaroglu to revive the economy.

    Central Anatolia, on the other hand, is more rural, more traditional and also has more assistance and support. Thanks to the clientelist system put in place by Erdogan in recent years, millions of households in these regions live off government subsidies. If Erdogan loses, they are afraid that they will no longer receive these subsidies.

    Another point is the importance of religion, Sunni Islam, on which Erdogan insists and which is polarizing society against the Kurds, the Alevis, all those who do not conform to the model. He has a powerful tool at his disposal, Diyanet (the Directorate of Religious Affairs in Turkey), which, with its thousands of imams and officials, has developed a dense network throughout Turkey. In the villages, there is no need to have an AKP representation for election propaganda, the mosque is enough.

    Lamara: In terms of foreign policy, the opposition candidate did not announce a big break with Erdogan, is there a consensus in Turkey on this issue?

    The opposition would have a different foreign policy if elected, more peaceful for starters, more rational too. Relations with Europe, the United States and NATO would resume a normal course, it would be possible to reset many thorny issues. Relations with Moscow would be more institutionalized than they are today. The relationship between Erdogan and Putin is very personal, everything is based on their magic link. For example, there are no stenograms of their conversations, no recordings, we don’t know what they say to each other. In a normal institutionalized relationship, we would know.

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    Translation of an original article published in English on; the publisher may only be liable for the French version.

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