Turkey’s President Amassed Power. He Could Still Lose This Election. (2023)


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Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has tilted the political playing field in his favor over the past two decades, concentrating power in his own hands. Still, he faces a stiff challenge in Sunday’s election.

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Turkey’s President Amassed Power. He Could Still Lose This Election. (1)

By Ben Hubbard

(Video) Turkey’s President Amassed Power. He Could Still Lose This Election. #turkey #election #erdoğan

ISTANBUL, Turkey — As President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey approaches the toughest election of his career on Sunday, he has marshaled many of the resources of the state to tilt the playing field to his advantage.

Mr. Erdogan, who has come to increasingly dominate the country over the past two decades, tapped the Treasury for populist spending programs and has raised the minimum wage three times in the last year and a half. His challenger barely appears on the state broadcaster while Mr. Erdogan’s speeches are aired in full. And this weekend’s vote will be overseen by an election board that, during recent votes, has made questionable calls that benefited the president.

And yet, Mr. Erdogan could still lose.

Recent polls show him trailing the main challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, in a tight race that could go to a runoff later this month. But Mr. Erdogan’s grip on the country could also contribute to his undoing, if voters drop him because of his strongman ways and persistently high inflation that has left Turks feeling poorer.

“The electionsare not fair, but nonetheless they are free, and that is why there is always the prospect of politicalchange in Turkey,” said Sinan Ulgen, director of the Istanbul-based EDAM research group. “The prospect exists, and is now palpable.”

Mr. Erdogan has eroded democratic institutions, stocking the judiciary with loyalists and limiting free expression. His main challenger, Mr. Kilicdaroglu, has vowed to restore democracy if he wins.

The close race speaks to Turkey’s complicated character. Political scientists say it is neither a full democracy nor a full-blown autocracy, but rather a mix of the twoin which the leader has outsized power but where elections can still bring about change.

Turkey has never tipped into full-on autocracy because electoral politics retain a hallowed place in the national identity, one revered by Mr. Erdogan himself. He and his governing Justice and Development Party have regularly trounced their opponents at the ballot box over the years with no indications of foul play, granting Mr. Erdogan a mandate.

Mr. Erdogan dismissed speculation that he would refuse to leave power if he lost, calling a question about the possibility “very ridiculous” during an interview on Friday with Turkish broadcasters. He came to power through democracy, he said, and would respect the process.

“If our nation decides to make such a different decision, we will do exactly what’s required by democracy,” he said.

Turkey’s political ambiguity is also reflected in its global position.

(Video) Turkey faces election runoff with Erdogan in the lead

During Mr. Erdogan’s tenure, much of Turkish foreign policy has become personally associated with him as he has proved to be a necessary, but problematic — and at times puzzling — partner of the West. He condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and sent aid to the Ukrainian government while not only refusing to join Western sanctions on Russia, but also expanding trade ties with, and drawing closer to, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

He has sparred with the United States over Syria policy and disparages Washington in his speeches. He heads a NATO member state but has hampered the alliance’s expansion, delaying Finland’s ability to join and stillrefusing to accept Sweden.


All of that, at times, has left Western leaders wondering whose side he is really on.

A change of leadership in Turkey would resonate around the world, given the country’s unique position as a predominantly Muslim society with a staunchly secular state and a vast network of economic and diplomatic ties spanning Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

Mr. Kilicdaroglu has promised that if he wins, he will improve relations with the West and make Turkish foreign policy less personal. But what exactly that would look like is hard to predict: He represents a coalition of six political parties with widely divergent ideologies and his record provides few clues. Before entering politics, he was a civil servant who ran Turkey’ssocial security administration.

AfterMr. Erdogan rose to the national stage as prime minister in 2003, hewas widely seen as a new model of Islamist democrat, one pro-business and interested in strong ties with the West. During his first decade, Turkey’s economy boomed, lifting millions into the middle class.

But more recently — after facing mass street protests against his governing style, becoming president in 2014 and surviving a failedcoup attempt in 2016 — he purged his foes from the state bureaucracy, limited civil liberties and centralized power in his hands.


Mr. Erdogan retains a fervent following, particularly among working class, rural and more religious voters, who love his rhetoric about standing up for Turkey against an array of domestic and foreign enemies. He has pushed back against Turkey’s state secularism, expanding Islamic education and changing regulations to allow women in government jobs to wear head scarves.

The political opposition says that his consolidation of power has gone too far and portrays Sunday’s vote as a make-it-or-break-it moment for Turkish democracy that could inspire other states struggling with aspiring autocrats.

(Video) Turkey Elections 2023: Run-off Vote Likely, Erdogan Leading | Between the Lines with Palki Sharma​

Mr. Erdogan’s advantages are clear, starting with the perks citizens can receive through links to his political party, including state jobs, social support orlocal services like new roads, analysts said.

The president’s use of power for electoral gain has raised questions about how fair these elections really are.

“It is more like a hybrid regime, where you have multiparty elections but where the opposition does not enjoy the same opportunities as the government to put their ideas and policies through to voters,” said Ersin Kalaycioglu, a professor of political science at Sabanci University in Istanbul.

Mr. Erdogan has extended his sway over the news media. Major news networks are owned by businessmen close to Mr. Erdogan while outlets that criticize his policies are often hounded with fines and lawsuits.

A recent analysis of the state-funded broadcaster TRT found that in April,Mr. Kilicdaroglu received only 32 minutes of airtime. Mr. Erdogan got 32 hours.

“TRT acts like a public relations firm assigned to run the election campaign of the ruling party and its presidential candidate,” Ilhan Tasci, an opposition party member at the state broadcasting regulator, said in a statement when releasing the data.


Overseeing Sunday’s vote is the Supreme Election Council, a panel of judges. For decades, it was widely regardedas independent and trustworthy, but two recent decisions marred its reputation in the eyes of opposition supporters.

In 2017, while the votes were being counted in a referendum on changing Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential system, the board decided to override the electoral law and include ballots that lacked an official stamp proving their authenticity. The referendum passed by a slim margin, allowing Mr. Erdogan, the president at the time, to greatly expand his powers.

In 2019, after an opposition candidate beat Mr. Erdogan’s candidate in the mayor’s race for Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, the council voided the results, citing irregularities, and called for a redo. The same opposition candidate won that, too, by an even larger margin.

(Video) Turkish Leader’s Legacy Hinges on Sunday’s Elections

Those decisions raised questions about the election board’s willingness to rule against Mr. Erdogan’s preferred outcome, said Hasan Sinar, an associate professor of criminal law at Altinbas University in Istanbul.

“On paper, they are neutral,” he said. “But when the government stays in power so long, no one in that position can be neutral anymore.” Any doubt about the electoral board’s neutrality was detrimental to Turkey’s democracy, he added. “This is never supposed to be poisoned by doubt,” he said.

In recent weeks, Mr. Erdogan has used his bully pulpit to bludgeon the opposition, warning that the country would suffer under their leadership and accusing them of conspiring with terrorists. Mr. Erdogan’s interior minister, Suleyman Soylu,who oversees the security forces, has gone further, sowing doubts about the results before the vote even begins.


The election amounted to “a political coup attempt by the West,” Mr. Soylu said last month during a campaign stop. “It is a coup attempt formed by bringing together all of the preparations to purge Turkey.”

A few days later, Mr. Soylu said that Mr. Kilicdaroglu’s party was “always open to cheating.”

Despite the problems, Turks remain hopeful that Sunday’s poll will express the people’s will. This week, after Mr. Soylu requested that the election board share detailed data about polling places and voter registrations so his ministry could set up its ownsystem to tabulate the vote, the election board pushed back, saying that only it was empowered to count votes.

Others noted Mr. Erdogan’s long commitment to electoral politics, hoping that meant he would accept his own loss if it happened.

“Turkey has a long tradition of multiparty democracy and a very strong attachment to the integrity of the vote,” said Mr. Ulgen, the director of EDAM. If a clean vote is held, it would probably be respected, even by Mr. Erdogan, he added.

But trouble could arise if the results are very close, causing the candidates to contest them or question the process.

If the spread is very thin, Mr. Ulgen said, “all options are on the table.”

Gulsin Harman contributed reporting.


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(Video) What's Happening In Turkey... (Election)


What was the result of the Turkish election? ›

The president scored 49.51% against Kılıçdaroğlu's 44.88%, with a small number of overseas votes left to count. The head of the supreme electoral board said even when the remaining 35,874 uncounted overseas votes were distributed, no one would secure the majority needed to win the elections outright.

What is the power of president in Turkey? ›

He/she shall ratify and promulgate international treaties. He/she shall submit laws regarding amendment to the Constitution to referendum, if he/she deems it necessary. He/she shall determine national security policies and take necessary measures.

What is a run-off in Turkish elections? ›

A run-off vote is a second round of voting that takes place when no candidate receives more than half of the presidential vote. As vote counting entered its final stages on Monday, all indicators pointed to Erdogan being just below the 50 percent threshold needed to win in the first round.

Why is Turkey's government now considered a presidential democracy? ›

The reforms, among other measures, abolished the position of Prime Minister and designated the President as both head of state and government, effectively transforming Turkey from a parliamentary regime into a presidential one.

What was the result of the Turkish War of Independence? ›

The Allies evacuated Anatolia and Eastern Thrace, the Ottoman government was overthrown and the monarchy abolished, and the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (which remains Turkey's primary legislative body today) declared the Republic of Turkey on 29 October 1923.

How did Turkey change as a result of World War? ›

In 1923, Turkey was declared a republic after fighting against the Allied occupation (1919-1922) following the First World War. In the 1920s, the Turkish political leadership was mainly engaged in making reforms at the political level. At the economic level, they had not yet developed any strategy.

Who holds all the power in Turkey? ›

The Constitution states that the legislative power is vested in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (art. 7), that the executive power is carried out by the President of Turkey (art.

What are the 5 requirements to be president? ›

Constitutional requirements for presidential candidates
  • Be a natural-born citizen of the United States.
  • Be at least 35 years old.
  • Have been a resident of the United States for 14 years.
Apr 6, 2023

How many presidents did Turkey have? ›

Republic of Turkey has 12 presidents since the foundation of the republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who became the first president.

What does run-off mean for president? ›

Runoff voting can refer to: Two-round system, a voting system used to elect a single winner, whereby only two candidates from the first round continue to the second round, where one candidate will win. Instant-runoff voting, an electoral system whereby voters rank the candidates in order of preference.

Is Turkey a free country? ›

Turkey still keeps laws which are seen as undemocratic or authoritarian, such as prohibiting minorities to get a primary education in their mother tongue. The country's largest minority, the Kurds, which comprise 15% of the population, have no right to self-determination even though Turkey has signed the ICCPR.

What is the political risk in Turkey? ›

The rating outlook is stable. The political risk rating remains at CCC. The consolidation of a presidential system with few checks and balances and a clampdown on opponents will keep political instability high ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections in mid-2023.

How does Turkey make money? ›

The country is among the world's leading producers of agricultural products, textiles, motor vehicles, transportation equipment, construction materials, consumer electronics and home appliances. $1.029 trillion (Nominal, 2023 est.) $3.573 trillion (PPP, 2023 est.)

What is the agreement of Turkey in 2023? ›

The main of the agreement is recognising the new border, abolishment of the Caliphate, and formation of the Turkey Republic, Syria under French and Egypt, Sudan, Iraq and Palestine under the British, and the straits between the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea which the Bosphorus Straits are declared as civilian passage ...

Which was led to the downfall of the Turkish empire? ›

An important factor in the decline was the increasing lack of ability and power of the sultans themselves. Süleyman tired of the campaigns and arduous duties of administration and withdrew more and more from public affairs to devote himself to the pleasures of his harem.

When and why did Turkey declare war? ›

Turkey finally declared war on Germany in late February 1945. But at no time were they active combatants for the Allies. Turkey's neutrality during the war blocked Germany's access to the Middle East, thereby depriving Germany of an Arab alliance.

Who was the country to remove the ruler of Turkey in First World War? ›

On 3 October 1918 forces of the Arab Revolt entered Damascus accompanied by British troops, ending 400 years of Ottoman rule.

Is Turkey won the First World War? ›

Turkey suffered heavy losses during the First World War

The Ottoman army (just under three million conscripts of Turkish, Arab, Kurdish and other backgrounds) fought the British in Egypt, Palestine, Arabia, Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and Persia (today's Iran).

Why did the British want to defeat Turkey? ›

The British and French agreed to attack Turkey. Their objective was to wrest control of the Dardanelles and re-establish sea communications with Russia through the Black Sea and end the Ottoman Empire's role in the war.

What is the main religion in Turkey? ›

Religious Demography. The U.S. government estimates the total population at 82.5 million (midyear 2021). According to the Turkish government, 99 percent of the population is Muslim, approximately 78 percent of which is Hanafi Sunni.

What kind of power is Turkey? ›

Turkey operates on 220 volts, 50 Hz, with round-prong European-style plugs that fit into recessed wall sockets /points. Check your appliances before leaving home to see what you'll need to plug in when you travel in Turkey.

Who is Turkey's greatest leader? ›

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Halâskâr Gazi Mareşal Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Military service
AllegianceOttoman Empire (1893–1919) Ankara Government (1921–1923) Turkey (1923–1927)
Branch/serviceOttoman Army Army of the GNA Turkish Army
RankMajor General (Ottoman Army) Marshal (Turkish Army)
37 more rows

What are the 7 powers of the president? ›

The Constitution explicitly assigns the president the power to sign or veto legislation, command the armed forces, ask for the written opinion of their Cabinet, convene or adjourn Congress, grant reprieves and pardons, and receive ambassadors.

Can the president declare war? ›

The Constitution divides war powers between Congress and the president. Only Congress can declare war and appropriate military funding, yet the president is commander in chief of the armed forces.

What is President salary? ›

Thirty years ago, the salary of the President of the United States was set at its current level of $200,000 a year.

What is a Turkish leader called? ›

Sultan Khan: The Grand Sultan, the chief title borne by the ruler of Turkey and the Ottoman Empire, equivalent to Emperor. Sultan us-Selatin: Sultan of Sultan, one of the many titles of the Sultan of Turkey.

Which president had a pet Turkey? ›

One special animal in the Lincoln White House was Jack the turkey. Jack originally was on the Lincoln's dinner menu, but Tad became fond of the bird and pleaded with his father to spare Jack's life. President Lincoln relented, and Jack became part of the Presidential household.

When was Turkey founded? ›

The Treaty of Lausanne of July 24, 1923, led to the international recognition of the sovereignty of the newly formed "Republic of Turkey" as the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, and the republic was officially proclaimed on October 29, 1923, in the new capital of Ankara.

What is the basis for removing a president from office? ›

Article II, Section 4: The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

What is an off year election simple? ›

An off-year election is a general election in the United States that is held when neither a presidential election nor a midterm election takes place. Almost all "off-year" elections are held on odd-numbered years.

What is off year election in simple words? ›

Every four years the president, vice president, one-third of the Senate, and the entire House are up for election (on-year elections). On even-numbered years when there isn't a presidential election, one-third of the Senate and the whole House are included in the election (off-year elections).

Is Turkey good country to live? ›

Pro: Low Crime Rate. Turkey is a relatively safe country, especially compared to its neighbors in the Middle East. While there are always exceptions, most of the time you can walk around without worry. For example, the US had 56% more crimes per capita than Turkey in 2021.

Is Turkey considered a Third World country? ›

Examples of second-world countries by this definition include almost all of Latin and South America, Turkey, Thailand, South Africa, and many others. Investors sometimes refer to second world countries that appear to be headed toward first world status as "emerging markets" instead.

Can foreigners own in Turkey? ›

Foreigners may buy land and property in Turkey in their own names, as long as the properties are located in towns, not in villages, or rural regions, or military zones. That said, there must be a municipality in the region where the property is located, and the property must be located within its bounds.

Is there any corruption in Turkey? ›

Since the current scale was introduced in 2012, Turkey's score has fallen from its highest score of 50 (2013) to its lowest, current score of 36 (2022). When the 180 countries in the Index were ranked by their score (with the country perceived to be most honest ranked 1), Turkey ranked 101 in 2022.

What conflict is Turkey in? ›

The Kurdish–Turkish conflict is an armed conflict between the Republic of Turkey and various Kurdish insurgent groups who have either demanded separation from Turkey to create an independent Kurdistan, or attempted to secure autonomy and greater political and cultural rights for Kurds inside the Republic of Turkey.

Why is Turkey in crisis? ›

The crisis was caused by the Turkish economy's excessive current account deficit and large amounts of private foreign-currency denominated debt, in combination with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's increasing authoritarianism and his unorthodox ideas about interest rate policy.

Does Turkey pay taxes? ›

Variety of individual income tax rate is between 15% and 35%. Residency criterion is the key point for the taxes. Residents in Turkey are liable at tax on their worldwide income and they are considered as "full tax liable".

Is Turkey an ally of the United States? ›

Türkiye is an important U.S. security partner and has been a valued NATO Ally since 1952. Türkiye serves as NATO's vital eastern anchor on the straits of the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, which link the Black Sea with the Mediterranean.

What is the average income in Turkey? ›

The average salary in the most recent year (2023) in Turkey is about 94,000 Turkish Lira (TRY) per year. That's roughly about 4,872 US Dollars, as per the April 2023 exchange rate. Whether you're planning to outsource to Turkey or move your office there, it's best to understand the general wage information and economy.

Who got elected in Turkey? ›

A May 28 runoff between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kemal Kilicdaroglu has been confirmed to decide who becomes Turkey's next president. Erdogan took 49.5 percent of Sunday's presidential vote, with his main challenger, Kilicdaroglu, getting 44.89 percent.

Who won President of Turkey? ›

Image of Who won President of Turkey?
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a Turkish politician serving as the 12th and current president of Turkey since 2014. He previously served as prime minister of Turkey from 2003 to 2014 and as mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998.

How did the Turkish republic take over the Ottoman Empire? ›

The successful Turkish War of Independence, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk against the occupying Allies, led to the emergence of the Republic of Turkey in the Anatolian heartland and the abolition of the Ottoman monarchy.

When was the last election in Turkey? ›

Presidential elections
28 August 20072007 Turkish presidential electionAbdullah Gül succeeded Ahmet Necdet Sezer
10 August 20142014 Turkish presidential electionRecep Tayyip Erdoğan succeeded Abdullah Gül
24 June 20182018 Turkish presidential electionRecep Tayyip Erdoğan re-elected
18 more rows

Who rules Turkey now? ›

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the 12th and current president of Turkey, who has held the office since 28 August 2014.

Who freed Turkey? ›

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Halâskâr Gazi Mareşal Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Military service
AllegianceOttoman Empire (1893–1919) Ankara Government (1921–1923) Turkey (1923–1927)
Branch/serviceOttoman Army Army of the GNA Turkish Army
RankMajor General (Ottoman Army) Marshal (Turkish Army)
37 more rows

Who brought democracy to Turkey? ›

The government was formed from the Ankara-based revolutionary group, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his colleagues. The second constitution was ratified by the Grand National Assembly on 20 April 1924.

How many presidents Turkey had? ›

Republic of Turkey has 12 presidents since the foundation of the republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who became the first president.

Who is the famous president Turkey? ›

List of presidents (1923–present)
No.Name (Birth–Death)Previous office
1Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881–1938)1st Speaker of the Grand National Assembly
Abdülhalik Renda (1881–1957)4th Speaker of the Grand National Assembly
2İsmet İnönü (1884–1973)1st Prime Minister of Turkey
28 more rows

How long has the president of Turkey been president? ›

Turkey's current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been in power for two decades. He has forged bonds with both East and West, but his increasingly authoritarian rule has led to friction with some allies.

What is the old name of Turkey? ›

Land areas occupied by present-day Turks were known by various names over the centuries, including Asia Minor, Anatolia and eastern Thrace. But Turkey formally became the Republic of Türkiye (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti) after independence in 1923, following the abolition of the Ottoman sultanate.

Who helped Turkey first? ›

Azerbaijan became the first country to provide assistance to Turkey. Azerbaijan dispatched a search-and-rescue team of 420 people to Turkey. The ministry also sent another aircraft carrying first aid kits, tents, bedding, medical supplies, and other necessary equipment to help those affected.

How old is Turkey country? ›

The Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, replacing the dynastic and theocratic Ottoman system with its Sultanates and Caliphates. The new republic was based on a secular democratic, pluralist, and parliamentary system. In 1945 Turkey joined the UN and became a member of NATO in 1952.

How old is Turkey independence? ›

Republic of Türkiye Türkiye Cumhuriyeti (Turkish)
• Treaty of Lausanne24 July 1923
• Republic declared29 October 1923
• Current constitution9 November 1982
45 more rows

When did Turkey get rid of prime minister? ›

Prime Minister of Turkey
Prime Minister of the Republic of Türkiye
Abolished9 July 2018
Superseded byVice President of Turkey
DeputyDeputy Prime Minister
16 more rows

When did Turkey become a Republican? ›

The Treaty of Lausanne was signed on 24 July 1923. On 13 October Ankara officially became the capital of the new Turkish state. On 29 October a republic was proclaimed, with Mustafa Kemal as its first president.


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