Turkey votes: will Islamist Erdogan retain his power?

The response to the earthquakes and the restriction of human rights such as religious freedom may play against the powerful president.

Evangelical Focus

12 MAY 2023 · 12:35 CET

President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a political rally. / Photo: <a target="_blank" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/196259896@N06/">Flickr, CC</a>.,
President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a political rally. / Photo: Flickr, CC.

All eyes are on the presidential and parliamentary election in Turkey (or Türkiye), the large country between Europe and the Middle East that has proven to be a strategic actor in the region.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the most powerful man in the country since 2003 (first as Prime Minister and later as President), might be on the edge of losing his position on Sunday 14 May.

Erdogan is largely seen as a leader with and authoritarian and populistic style known as well for his efforts to bring Islam back into all areas of culture in a country where a secular secular approach to politics had been the norm.

Amidst a soaring inflation, Turkey is still trying to rebuild the southern areas hit in February by the 7.8 Richter scale earthquake that completely destroyed cities like the historic Antakya (Antioch). Over 50,000 people lost their lives, and “tens of thousands are still homeless”. All kind of local, national and international organisations are working on the ground to offer aid and mid-term solutions, but those affected often express its frustration with the government action.

Surveys say the all-party opposition coalition led by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu could hope to get more than 50% of the votes and therefore avoid a second round. But the support for Erdogan is also over 40%, and the race could be decided in a second two weeks later.

The 64 million citizens with a right to vote will also elect a new Gand National Assembly, the country’s national parliament, where Erdogan’s AKP party is strongest.

According to Euronews, nearly 1.7 million Turks have already voted from abroad, a “record” according to the authorities.


The situation of Christians and other groups

Not all Human Rights in Turkey are respected. The country has been often criticised for its treatment of asylum seekers, especially after the Syrian war and the flight of millions of people through Turkey to Europe.

The conflict with the separatist area of Kurdistan has also been a source of violence and international disputes.

Religious freedom and freedom of worship has also been restricted for minorities. It is clearly the case of Protestants, who have denounced that at least 60 pastors and Christian workers have been blacklisted and expelled from the country without explanation in recent years.

Turkey, a member of the NATO, continues to be a key geo-political actor who has tried to negotiate between Russia and Ukraine. Erdogan’s government has also has been active in seeking to join new alliances in Western Asia.

In 2022, the Turkey restored diplomatic relations with Israel after a decade of tensions.

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