Izmir (GPA) – Just days before ballots are set to be cast in the Turkish election, it seems incumbent President Recep Erdogan’s opponent Muharrem Ince might stand a chance.
Muharrem Ince, the Presidential candidate for the Republican People’s Party (CHP) held a massive rally in the city of Izmir on Turkey’s west coast on Thursday. Although numbers for the rally vary, the crowd size for the was estimated to be somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 million.
At the rally, Ince promised a host of economic reforms to help Turkey such as aid packages for farmers and seniors as well as new longer-term modeled investment in Turkey. He also fired directly on his opponent, saying of the current President, “Erdogan is now a tired man. A lonely man. An arrogant man who peers down on his people.”
Izmir is historically a stronghold of the CHP so it is no surprise to see Ince draw a good sized crowd but the fact that millions attended may be a sign of something larger and Erdogan may have some reason to be getting nervous about Sunday’s vote. Although much of the battle for votes with the AKP will be focused around the party’s rural base, this may still be a sign of a shift in Turkish politics.
According to the latest polls out of Turkey, Erdogan and his Justice and Development party are currently polling between 45 and 48 percent. However, there is some speculation that with the re-emergence of Ince (a long time AKP opponent) and his meteoric rise in the polls, the AKP and their coalition partners in the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) may fail to reach the majority of the vote necessary to win the presidency outright. If this is the case this would mean there would be a second round of elections in which Erdogan and Ince would be running head to head.
Turkey: approx. 2 500 000 people gather in Izmir for a rally of Muharrem Ince, the presidential candidate of the secularist centre-left CHP. Izmir is a secularist and a CHP stronghold. #muharremince #Izmir pic.twitter.com/iUdGLiL2dB
— Jo Fobelets (@JoFobelets) June 21, 2018
If this ends up being the case and the election does go to a second round with Erdogan below the 50% mark, there is a chance that members of other opposition parties may rally behind the CHP in order to oust Erdogan and the current government. This scenario seemed unlikely until recently when a backlash against Erdogan in public opinion began due to the tumbling Turkish lira.
There is also another unpopular matter underlying this election. This is, of course, the constitutional changes passed by a referendum last year which was marked by accusations of ballot stuffing and changed votes. These proposed changes would provide more power to Erdogan which has caused quite an uproar in Turkey and has even led to Erdogan being challenged from the right by a former member of the AKP-allied MHP, Meral Akşener whose iYi (Good) Party managed to snatch a chunk of the conservative vote of nationalists opposed to the constitutional changes.
Ince may also have some support from the outside since he has also made recent comments about how he stands with Turkey’s traditional allies like NATO and the European Union.
It is still likely Erdogan will have some dirty tricks up his sleeve for this election, including the already announced changes to the voting process, such as soldiers in polling stations and the end of sealing ballots for validation purposes. However, if the opposition to the new imperial Presidency is strong enough within Turkey, Erdogan may have reason to worry that the margins on this election won’t be as easy to manipulate as the close vote on his referendum.