Illness and cataclysms undermined Erdogan’s chances of winning: who will become the president of Turkey and what does this mean for Russia
Erdogan is the candidate of the ruling Republican Alliance
Just over two weeks are left before the presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey, which will determine the country’s future for the next five years. The latest polls show that the gap between the leader of the opposition, the chairman of the Republican People’s Party, 74-year-old Kemal Kilicdaroglu, and the incumbent president, 69-year-old Tayyip Erdogan, is increasing. However, this does not mean that the outcome of the elections is a foregone conclusion – the factor of surprise in Turkish politics plays a big role.
Recall that the elections in Turkey will be held on May 14. There are four contenders for the highest post in the republic, of which only two have a real chance of winning – Erdogan as a candidate from the ruling Republican Alliance and Kılıçdaroglu as a candidate from the opposition People’s Alliance. The remaining two – Erdogan’s rival in the previous presidential election, Fatherland Party leader Muharrem Ince and the Azeri-born politician Sinan Ogan, a candidate from the alliance of small right-wing parties – act more like extras. But the votes of their supporters could play a decisive role in the second round, which will take place on May 28, if none of the candidates receives more than 50% of the votes in the first round.
“Today, I regard the chances of Kılıçdaroglu and Erdoğan as equal, even though the polls give the opposition candidate a few percent more (49 and 41%, respectively, according to the latest data – ed.), – Aydin, a well-known Turkish political scientist, told KP Sezer. – Unfortunately, due to the great polarization in Turkish society, it is likely that after the elections, clashes between supporters and opponents of the incumbent president may begin. In Turkey, many people expect riots during the counting of votes and are worried about this.
If no candidate withdraws from the electoral race, a second round is expected. But there are doubts about Ince’s participation in the elections. It is possible that he will withdraw his candidacy in favor of Kılıçdaroğlu, and then everything may end in the first round. If the opposition wins, it won’t come as a surprise. For the first time in 20 years of Erdogan’s rule, she is so close to victory, the political scientist says.
How can a very real victory of the opposition today affect Russian-Turkish relations?
“I do not expect that if Kılıçdaroglu wins, then Turkey’s neutral position, which it has now taken on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, will somehow change. Our relationship has a very deep foundation of interdependence. Turkey, of course, is an important member of NATO, but a possible change of power in terms of relations with Russia does not carry any risk. Even during the Cold War, it was possible to maintain a fairly positive atmosphere here. If the opposition candidate wins, relations between Russia and Turkey will only take on a more official form, moving from relations between the two leaders to relations between the two states,” Sezer believes.
Erdogan’s chances of winning are significantly reduced by inflation, unprecedented over the past 25 years, which in some months exceeded 80% on an annualized basis, as well as the consequences of the recent catastrophic earthquake in the southeast of the country, which revealed large flaws in construction, including buildings that were considered earthquake-resistant, however, collapsed under the impact of the elements. In addition, the opposition criticized the authorities for the slow response to the earthquake, in particular the delay in bringing the army to the aftermath.
Erdogan’s sudden illness did not add to his chances, when he became ill during a live interview. The Turkish leader himself explained this by “stomach flu”, but rumors about emergency hospitalization due to a heart attack began to spread instantly on social networks. The next day, Erdogan took part in a video conference with Vladimir Putin in the ceremony of delivering the first nuclear fuel to the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, dispelling the worst fears about his health, but he still looked unimpressed. Due to illness, the President of Turkey has been forced to limit his activity in recent days to the online format, and this is fraught with the loss of votes.
However, we must not forget that Erdogan is a heavyweight in politics, who has repeatedly shown the ability to emerge victorious from the most difficult situations for him, including during the coup attempt in July 2016. Whether he will be able to do it again, we will find out very soon.