Ankara (GPA) – The Turkish election for President is in full swing and it seems the incumbent, Recep Erdogan is going to face a second-round challenge.
If the latest polls are to be believed, Recep Erdogan doesn’t seem to be in as good of electoral shape as he was when he first called this snap election in April. If anything, he may be regretting his decision now that it appears his Justice and Development Party (AKP) and their coalition partners in the MHP will fail to obtain the fifty percent of the vote required to win the first round of elections outright.
Instead, what has happened is it seems is that the four opposition parties – which are all united in opposing the AKP – may manage to force the race for President into a run-off. While this may seem like potentially good news for the opposition, it is still unclear whether the candidate that will go on to the second round will be able to win.
Judging by the latest polls prior to the election kickoff for expatriate voters on June 7th – the vote in Turkey will happen on June 24th – it seems the candidate the will be the runner-up to Erdogan and the AKP is Muharrem Ince, the candidate of the Republican People’s Party (CHP). The CHP has remained consistently around twenty-five percent since the AKP became the dominating force in Turkish politics.
While twenty-five percent may not seem like much, this makes the CHP the second highest polling party in Turkey. If this historical trend continues as it has the past several years it is probably a safe bet that Erdogan will be facing off with Ince, but it’s unclear if Ince will be able to win the votes it would take.
Despite the CHP’s position, the problem for Ince is that according to all the pre-election polling data, he may not win in a head to head competition with Erdogan. This hypothetical runoff has been polled several times since April with Ince tailing Erdogan by a range of over 10 points in an April poll to within 1 point of a tie. The latest head to head poll prior to the start of voting still had Ince behind by seven points making it unclear if enough of the other opposition parties supporters would rally behind the CHP with the goal of removing Erdogan.
There is, however, one candidate who actually has defeated Erdogan in a one on one poll, although only once and by one point but still only trails by between 1.6 and 2.4 points as of May. This surprise candidate is a former member of the MHP, who split with the party after they supported Erdogan’s referendum to change the constitution, Meral Aksener. She is now the leader of a new movement, the iYi (Good) Party, a party incredibly similar to the AKP (they’re also fiercely nationalist and obsessed with alleged-CIA-shill, exiled-cleric Fethullah Gulen) but differ on the issue on everyone’s mind: the changes to the constitution that will grant the next leader unprecedented powers.
Along with the Presidency, all seats in the Turkish parliament are also up for grabs. While the head to head polling hasn’t been a constant factor, observers can use the overall party polls to gauge how this first round of the election could go. Currently, according to surveys conducted by the opposition, the AKP is polling somewhere between 40-43% with their coalition partners in the MHP ranging anywhere from four to nine percent bringing them to a total of somewhere between 44 and 51 percent.
While this isn’t enough to instill confidence in the AKP that they can avoid a second-round challenge, it still seems less than likely that the opposition will rally behind whoever challenges Erdogan in the second round. While Erdogan is currently attempting to put out a series of political fires, ranging from Turkish relations with Israel and the US to a tanking economy with runaway inflation, he is still likely to come out on top. If this is the case, Erdogan will finally get the new powers he has created for himself and likely find new ways to further entrench his power.