Türkiye will head to the polls next summer for the 2023 general elections, in which the deputies in Parliament and, more importantly, the president will be determined.
The elections are of vital importance for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been in power for 20 years, and also for the opposition, which has failed to secure a victory at the ballot box.
However, the race has not started yet. This is because the opposition bloc still has not put forward a common candidate despite the ruling People's Alliance formed by the AK Party and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) announcing Erdoğan as their candidate. There is a deep rivalry and division on this issue within the Nation Alliance, which consists of six opposition parties.
The first possible candidate is Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, chairperson of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). However, Kılıçdaroğlu's candidacy has divided his party. In the CHP, those who want Ekrem İmamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş to be presidential candidates, the now mayors who took the Istanbul and Ankara municipalities from the hands of the AK Party in the last local elections, respectively, are in the majority. Kılıçdaroğlu at times does not hesitate to warn about intra-party opposition through the press, but the mayors continue to lobby for candidacy.
The second biggest partner of the Nation Alliance, the Good Party (IP), and the other four parties agree that Kılıçdaroğlu does not hold a candle to Erdoğan. They say, “Let someone else, an outsider, be a candidate.”
It is not difficult to predict that a great uproar will break out in the Nation Alliance when the main candidate is determined and announced. However, this disorganization, indecision and competition have already dampened the enthusiasm of the opposition voters. In all polls, Erdoğan doubles his closest possible rival.
The candidate is not the only problem within the opposition bloc. On top of that, the Nation Alliance, which includes all colors from the left to the right of the spectrum, cannot mathematically crush the People's Alliance without the support of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), tied to the terrorist group PKK. It is not easy to convince the nationalist-statist CHP supporters, the voters of the anti-immigrant-nationalist IP and the conservative components of the alliance to cooperate with the “separatists.”
The lack of a common goal to consolidate the electorate in the “table for six” meetings held by the Nation Alliance so far also exhausts hopes. Promises, such as a return to a parliamentary system, which will propel the country into an adventure that will last for years, are of no interest to the electors. Despite the inertia and disorganization of the opposition, which has not been able to create excitement, there is no trace of fatigue in Erdoğan.
Erdoğan has been making waves in foreign policy in terms of Türkiye's role in the grain corridor, its unique position in the Russia-Ukraine war, its expanding influence in Gulf countries and its strengthened hand in the energy competition in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Even among the opposition voters, there are many who admit that in the stormy waters of the pandemic and the post-Ukraine-Russian war, Türkiye should have an experienced and accomplished captain like Erdoğan at the helm. Domestic defense industry moves, domestic electric car project and giant infrastructure projects that do not slow down even in the global economic crisis give people confidence in the future.
The only disadvantage of the People's Alliance is high inflation. Erdoğan makes this problem less felt with new moves such as interim salary increases and giant mass housing projects for the disadvantaged. He never sits idle to strengthen the perception in the mind of citizens that “he has not left the end of the rope and he will untie the knot himself.”
It currently seems that Erdoğan will be at the helm of Türkiye for five more years. Having said that, we have nearly seven months until the elections. Before you know it, the opposition may pull a rabbit out of a hat in that time.