The future of Turkey and its citizens is at stake.
( Globalvoices.org) – May 14 will go down in the history of Turkish Republic as one of the most important elections to date. The stakes are high, and there is a growing sense among the general public that if the current leadership stays in power, the country’s future is grim and uncertain. There is talk of Turkey turning into a Taliban-style theocracy, while others debate whether the country can weather even one more term under the current autocracy. The importance of the upcoming elections rests on the ruling party of Justice and Development (AKP), which has upended democratic norms and values in recent years. Under the AKP, Turkey has curtailed freedom of expression, media plurality, human rights, art and music, women’s rights, and more, largely at the whim of one man — President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. After twenty years in power and consecutive election victories (two presidential races, three referendums, five parliamentary elections, minus the municipal elections in 2019) since 2002, the fate of the ruling party and its leaders is on the table, but so is the future of Turkey and its citizens.
Candidates, alliances, legions
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ISTANBUL, TURKIYE – APRIL 09: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends the Pendik Municipality Mass Opening Ceremony in Istanbul, Turkiye on April 09, 2023. (Photo by Serhat Cagdas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
As of March 28, there are four presidential candidates in the race (out of 18 original applicants). In Turkish elections, various political parties often form alliances with each other to consolidate their voter base. The four candidates are incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (despite the earlier claims that his candidacy was unlawful) representing the ruling People’s Alliance; Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the candidate from the united opposition front (known as Table of Six) representing the Nation Alliance; Muharrem Ince (former member of the main opposition Republican People (CH) party and 2018 presidential candidate) from the Homeland party; and Sinan Oğan representing the ATA Alliance.
The People’s Alliance has gotten both official and unofficial support from nationalist parties, the ultra-Islamist Kurdish Free Cause Party (Huda-Par), also known as the successor of Hezbollah, as well as parties known for their anti-LGBTQ+ stance and questionable views on women’s rights. For instance, one supporter, the New Welfare Party called to amend Law 6284 on the prevention of violence against women and children and close down LGBTQ+ clubs in the country. According to journalist Ismail Saymaz, the party had some 30 conditions prior to throwing its support behind the ruling alliance.