Updated: Jun 19
The nation of Turkey, or Tukiye, as it is now known, has been one of the most prominent in international news, mostly for internal reasons. A major cause for this has been its President’s (Recep Tayyip Erdogan) aggressive way of leadership. Turkey has had quite a presence on the world stage, from talks on a return of the Ottoman Empire, to concerns about the state of democracy.
Recently, it has yet again caught the attention of the world as its General Elections approach on May 14th. Plagued by a struggling economy and recent high magnitude earthquakes, many citizens are not prioritizing the elections. Nevertheless, these elections could make or break Turkey. They alone shape the destiny of Turkey and its global standing. Will Turkey soar high in the sky and become rejuvenated by democracy? Or will it further be corrupted by the rust of authoritarianism and censorship?
Every five years, 600 Members of Parliament are elected into Turkey’s General Assembly, using the proportionality based D’Hondt method of tallying votes. The method aims for perfect proportionality in the number of seats with respect to the number of votes each party secures.
However, since this is not always possible due to the way in which constituencies are divided, the method minimizes the number of votes ‘lost’ when an approximate number of proportional seats is calculated. This method slightly favours larger parties when approximating the number of seats for each party. Additionally, a party must win at least 7% of the total votes to win a seat in the General Assembly. The threshold does not apply to independent candidates.
Currently, Erdogan’s AK Parti is in power, with Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s CHP being the main opposition. The Turkish people are mostly divided into two factions: those who despise Erdogan's totalitarian policies and his suppression of democracy, and those who are a part of a cult-like following of the President. Erdogan has been friendly with several autocratic leaders, and several others have accused him of being one himself.
Erdogan has been in power for over 20 years, and Turkey has slowly but surely slipped into an autocratic and dictatorial rule under his leadership. Erdogan greatly reduced the transparency of all Government work, and reinstated several laws from a bygone age, including several press related acts which gave his presidency more control over all public messages.
However, this was not always the case. When he came to power, Erdogan was seen as a democratic face - a rarity in Turkish politics. He was largely secular, and made promises of liberty and equality. However, he is now seen as an Islamic leader. A glaring example of the change he wrought is the conversion of the ancient Hagia Sophia museum to the Hagia Sofia Mosque. Simultaneously, Erdogan has given up Turkey’s geo-political ‘Kemalist’ strategy of maintaining strong relations with Western Europe and the United States.
All of these steps and changes have not gone unnoticed, and there is severe public unrest against Erdogan’s rule. His arch rival, Kilicdaroglu has used this to his advantage, emphasizing his intentions for a brand new, modernized, democratic and secular Turkey. Kılıçdaroğlu has been the Leader of Opposition in Turkey since 2010, and this is his first real opportunity to finally be in power. While Erdogan has focused on his influence and alliances in the East, Kılıçdaroğlu has maintained strong links with the west, and this has proved beneficial, with several global powers demanding Erdogan to step down.
Several socially liberal left wing magazines, such as The Economist have written in support of Kılıçdaroğlu, and this has led to him enjoying the trust and support of several Turk sects.
Currently, it is difficult to tell which side will come out triumphant in this electoral race. Despite global criticism, Erdogan still has a large following, as was made clear in the 2018 Turkish General Election, wherein his party secured 317 seats and almost double the number of votes as Kılıçdaroğlu’s CHP opposition.
This is the first time in the past two decades that there is a real threat to the AK Parti’s position from the opposition. Erdogan’s return to power could prove to be disastrous for Turkey, and it cannot be disregarded just yet.
It is now up to Turkey to decide whether this election will be a rare political Turkish Delight.