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What If Erdogan Wins Next Month’s Turkish Elections?

Sinan Ciddi
National Interest, Apr. 28, 2023

“… one can observe that, from the outset, this opposition bloc never prioritized the rule of law and democratic governance issues beyond rhetoric. Instead, it has been focused on the division of political spoils.”
There are intense and often heated differences between Turkey watchers over the outcome of the presidential elections that are just around the corner on May 14. Individuals have really dug into their respective camps with little room left in the middle: folks are convinced that Recep Tayyip Erdogan will definitely win or lose by a large margin. Both sides cite relatively compelling narratives for their position based on a myriad of explanatory factors: their experience as journalists or scholars, or, based on references to polls, the country’s economic situation.

The truth is, at this point in the calendar, it’s a guessing game. For my part, I am on record predicting that Erdogan has a greater chance of holding onto power for a third five-year term than opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu has of winning. I have attempted to explain my rationale in other opinion pieces and interviews. At this point, however, it is worth pondering, should my prediction come to pass, who or what factors will account for Erdogan staying in office?

To begin, there is the most obvious element: Turkish voters themselves. In the event that Erdogan scores a legitimate victory, much of that could be attributed to voter demands. The majority of Turks going to the polls on May 14 will not prioritize the rule of law, democracy, and other governance issues as their top priority. If they did, we would not see Erdogan polling in the 40 percent margins. Instead, voters are primarily motivated by their desire to hedge: “in voting, who do I believe will take care of my economic interests?” To address this motivation, Erdogan has turned on the monetary taps in the last few weeks: bonuses for retireesfree natural gas to households, and increases to the minimum wage. Kilicdaroglu’s problem here is that he is not in a position to convince voters that he can deliver better on pocketbook issues than Erdogan—the latter is already in a position to demonstrate such and thus tempt voters. He controls the purse strings of state resources, which are already being utilized to buy citizens’ votes.

… [To read the full article, click here]

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