Presidential and parliamentary elections were held yesterday in Turkey. According to figures presented by Turkey's Supreme Electoral Council, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan led the presidential election with 49.52% of ballots cast versus 44.88% for Kılıçdaroğlu, meaning that there will be a run-off on May 28th since one single candidate did not take more than 50% of the votes.
The result came as a shock to the opposition Nation’s Alliance block led by their presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu who it claimed would win in the first round. Many respected political pundits had predicted that Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu would win, perhaps even in the first round, and were surprised that he should trail by some 5 percentage points.
As Turkey heads for a run-off election in two weeks, Erdoğan has proved once again that he and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) appear to remain unbeatable, and it is now more than likely that Erdoğan will remain as president for a further 5 years after having been in power already for more than 20 years.
The AKP and its far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) partners also prevailed in the 600-member parliamentary election, obtaining 323 seats under their People’s Alliance. Kılıçdaroğlu’s pro-secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) and five other opposition parties united under the Nation’s Alliance came in second with 212 seats and a leftist bloc led by the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party (YSP) pulled in third with 65. Though CHP’s presidential candidate Kılıçdaroğlu did not perform as well as would have been desired in the presidential election, his party CHP still managed to gain an extra 3 percentage points and 23 seats in the parliamentary election compared with the previous 2018 parliamentary election. AKP on the other hand has lost 7 percentage points and 27 seats.
Despite the tremendous adversity faced by Turkey and its people in recent years, Erdoğan somehow managed to persevere and pull ahead in the first round of the presidential election. The economy is in a mess, with high inflation leaving millions of Turks struggling to meet their basic living expenses. The massive earthquakes that decimated large swathes of southern Turkey on February 6th added to their misery. The president and his family, who live in a 1,100 room palace, are often the target of allegations of corruption. Tens of thousands of dissidents are languishing in jail. Erdoğan’s success in this election despite the suffering undergone by his people is astonishing.
Though the elections would appear to have been in general properly conducted and with little violence, Erdogan has used the one-man-rule system imposed in the wake of a controversial referendum in 2018 to maintain the system in his favour, controlling the media and ensuring that the judiciary and other key institutions were managed by compliant yes-men. He has used his vast propaganda machine ruthlessly against the opposition. Many of Erdoğan’s speeches were broadcast fully on 8 major television channels live and his on-air time far exceeded that given to the opposition. Erdoğan almost totally monopolised state television channels. These clearly do not allow for fair election campaign conditions.
The very high turnout at the elections, with some 55.8 million people, 86.98% of those eligible to vote, casting their ballots, shows the competitiveness of the elections. However, the fact that key political and social figures are in prison despite critical judgments of the European Court of Human Rights has also attracted criticism as to whether the elections were indeed democratic.