Turkish election polls say Challenger is 10 points above Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday bumped June presidential elections on May 14, ostensibly to avoid conflict with the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca and university entrance exams.

If it was actually a ploy to accelerate the campaign before his main opponent can build momentum, it appears to have backfired as polls over the weekend showed challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu leading Erdogan by ten points.

Reuters noted that a series of recent polls showed Kilicdaroglu ahead by up to 15 points. Aksoy Research’s poll on Saturday was the first since a coalition of six opposition parties united behind Kilicdaroglu last week and formally announced his candidacy. Aksoy found he led Erdogan — 55.6 percent to 44.4 percent — while his coalition led Erdogan’s ruling AKP party in the legislative race by 44.1 percent to 38.2 percent.

The obvious reason cited by many observers for Erdogan’s slide in the polls was that of his government bad handling of the deadly Feb. 6 earthquakes, but Reuters pointed to polls showing that the response to the quake isn’t exactly devastating for the AKP, as nearly as many Turkish voters blame shoddy work by contractors as government regulators.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives for a ceremony in Ankara, Turkey, on May 16, 2022. (Burhan Ozbilici, File/AP)

The Washington Post saw the earthquakes as a force multiplier for growing public discontent with Erdogan’s 20 years of increasingly authoritarian and Islamist rule, even as the latest polls showed voters willing to blame for the 46,000 earthquake deaths:

Last month’s earthquake certainly increased the chances for Erdogan’s opponents. Turks can see how the president’s policies have exacerbated the effects of the disaster. The president’s authoritarian deal with Turkish society – based on the promise of prosperity, good governance and global prestige – is in shambles. But what should you replace it with?

The challenge for the opposition will be to convince Turkish citizens that they can provide good governance while dismantling the country’s one-man regime. It won’t be easy. In 2017, Erdogan consolidated power in a constitutional referendum and promised a more efficient government. It now appears that his hyper-centralized approach caused more dysfunction than anyone could have imagined. State institutions are full of incompetent loyalists who do not make decisions without a word from the man at the top. Construction-driven growth has led to a rotten system of patronage. Institutions are being eroded, including AFAD, the disaster relief organization. The Turkish Red Crescent was once known as a reliable helper in times of crisis. Now it is mired in scandal and mismanagement.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) found many men and women on the Turkish street on Saturday personally blaming Erdogan for both the lackluster response to disasters, caused in no small part by disastrous economic policies that left his government short of vital emergency resources, and the climate of laxity. oversight that allowed so many contractors to build supposedly earthquake-resistant structures that collapsed like houses of cards.

The WSJ noted that Erdogan’s opponents are stoking the fire against him by coordinating private relief efforts, making the incumbent government look even more ineffective and irrelevant. Istanbul’s opposition-controlled government has been particularly aggressive in its criticism of “the shortcomings of the central government,” as Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu put it.

“In fact, if there is no coordination in the field, the most common experience was the extreme loss of confidence of the earthquake victims. The most striking consequence of this in that moment of desperation was their expression of anger towards their state,” said Imamoglu, who came second in the CHP party’s electoral run. presidential nomination.

The associated press

Residents remove their belongings from their destroyed home following the earthquake in Samandag, southern Turkey, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. (Francisco Seco/AP)

Imamoglu survived a strong effort by Erdogan to ban him from politics and became one of the vice presidential candidates running on Kilicdaroglu’s ticket. Kilicdaroglu has said he will nominate an additional vice president from each of the five parties joining CHP to support him.

Kilicdaroglu’s promising start could be derailed if the six-party Nation Alliance falls apart, and That could easily happen because of a seventh party, the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP).

HDP is the third largest party in Turkey, but several members of the Kilicdaroglu coalition have threatened to run wild when he invites HDP to join, amid allegations that it has ties to the militant Kurdish separatist organization known as the PKK. The Nation Alliance could break even if Kilicdaroglu is seen to be too eager to negotiate with the HDP to gain his support without giving him a seat at the coalition table.

Erdogan’s critics suspect he will exploit these tensions by provoking civil unrest that scares voters into favoring the stability of his long-established rule over taking risks with a new government. He’s also reach out to enlist support from Islamic parties and warn them that Kilicdaroglu is serious about returning Turkey to the secular model of government of the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

“So what is on the agenda of this coalition? There is only political ambition on their agenda. There is a separation of rank and position. There is a record of how to plunder the country’s resources. There is an intention to disrupt our national unity and solidarity,” Erdogan said said of the Nation Alliance in a video conference with senior AKP officials on Saturday.

A few hours after Erdogan made those remarks, the far-Islamic “Free Cause Party” announced it would not be its own candidate in the May elections, instead supporting Erdogan.

The UK Spectator noted an unusual sight last Monday, the day Kilicdaroglu was announced as the Nation Alliance candidate: a huge portrait of Atatürk unfurled over the headquarters of the Good Party (IYI).

IYI is an Islamist and ultra-nationalist member of the Alliance whose leader Meral Aksener literally walked away from the table because Kilicdaroglu is a follower of Ataturk’s secularist philosophy, and he is not a Sunni Muslim, Turkey’s majority religion. He is a Alevia persecuted minority whose faith combines elements of Islam, Sufi mysticism and Christianity.

Aksener marched straight back to the table when her constituents decided that Kilicdaroglu was the best chance to get rid of Erdogan. Erdogan, an ardent campaigner who portrays himself as the great defender of Sunni Islam and the future sultan of a revived Ottoman Empire, can be expected to exploit this dynamic to show his own constituents that Kilicdaroglu is an enemy of the Islamic government.

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