Turks are getting ready to vote in critical presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s public support is put to the test against the backdrop of a severe economic crisis.
A six-party main opposition alliance has picked Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP), as its candidate.
Meanwhile, Erdogan’s Justice and Development (AK) Party added two conservative parties to its alliance in addition to its two long-term nationalist partners, pulling the coalition further to the far right.
The economy has topped the election agenda for many Turks, with a cost-of-living crisis fueled by soaring inflation.
Other issues widely discussed in the campaign period have been what the governance system of the country should be, the fate of the millions of Syrians residing in Turkey and recovery policies to heal the country’s wounds from the twin February earthquakes that killed tens of thousands of people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes.
There are three alliances that are expected to make it to parliament amid a significantly high seven percent election threshold in Turkey’s recently amended electoral system.
Here is a rundown of each alliance’s main policies and promises.
The alliance, led by incumbent Erdogan’s AK Party, also includes the nationalist National Movement Party and the Grand Unity Party as well as the ultraconservative New Welfare Party (YRP).
It is also supported by smaller parties from outside, such as Huda-Par, a predominantly Kurdish political Islamist party, although it did not officially join the alliance.
The alliance’s campaign, led by the president, argues that it can fix the problems of Turkey once again, as it did in the past.
- Earthquake relief: Erdogan said his government will build a total of 650,000 new flats in southeastern Turkey, where the double tremors hit, and promised to deliver 319,000 of these in one year.
- Economy: Erdogan promised to decrease inflation in the country to 20 percent in 2023 and below 10 percent in 2024, but also stressed that he would continue to decrease interest rates.
- Housing: The president vowed to announce more regulations to protect citizens from extreme increases in rents and sale prices.
- Refugees: Erdogan pledged more “voluntary” returns of Syrian refugees to their country, due to the improving dialogue between Syria and Turkey as a result of Russian mediation efforts.
- Foreign policy: Erdogan seeks to continue normalising Ankara’s ties in the wider region and aims to build an “axis” centred on Turkey. He said Ankara will keep cracking down on “terror” groups, such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gulen movement.
- LGBTQ+ rights: Erdogan has said his government will “actively fight against deviant tendencies such as LGBT that threaten our family structure”. He has also accused the opposition of being “pro-LGBT”.
Galip Dalay, a non-resident senior fellow at the Middle East Council on Global Affairs, told Al Jazeera that the main idea of Erdogan’s campaign is “continuity, stability and grandeur”, with the aim to attract conservative and nationalist votes.
“The alliance uses a very sharp ‘fight against terror’ rhetoric to appeal to nationalist sentiments in the country as it promises to keep Turkey strong, independent and respected in foreign policy,” he said.
“The rhetoric against LGBTQ, promising to uphold conservative family values, is designed to appeal to conservative people and sentiments in the country,” Dalay added. “These topics are likely to be the new battleground of identity politics in Turkey.”
Led by the main opposition CHP and the right-wing Iyi Party, the alliance covers a wide spectrum of parties, including the liberal-right Democracy and Progress (DEVA) Party and the centre-right Gelecek Party, which are led by two former Erdogan allies, ex-Foreign Minister Ali Babacan and ex-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The alliance also includes the smaller ultra-conservative Saadet Party and the right-wing Democrat Party.
Their candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu and the alliance’s campaign are promising change after more than 20 years of AK Party rule. They pledge to uphold democracy, media freedom and the rule of law.
- Earthquake relief: Kilicdaroglu has vowed to build houses for the earthquake victims free of charge and to ban property sales to foreigners until the housing crisis in Turkey is resolved for citizens.
- Economy: The presidential candidate has pledged to reintroduce more traditional economic policies and decrease inflation, slamming Erdogan’s policy of low interest rates. Kilicdaroglu said he will work to regain the confidence of foreign investors in Turkey as he transforms it into a high-value product manufacturing country.
- Governance: The Nation Alliance also seeks to abolish the executive presidential system introduced by Erdogan through a referendum in 2017 and bring back a strong parliamentary system to govern Turkey.
- Housing: The opposition candidate said his government will quadruple the social housing inventory in five years, and social housing lease costs will be capped at 20 percent of the minimum wage.
- Refugees: Kilicdaroglu has said that he will work to send Syrian refugees back to their country in coordination with the Syrian government.
- Foreign policy: Kilicdaroglu stated that he wants to talk to all international actors and fix the country’s relations with the West. Kilicdaroglu said Turks will be able to travel to the European Union’s Schengen area without a visa within months of him coming to power.
Dalay said that the Nation Alliance uses a rhetoric of “change” in almost all policy areas to attract people who are not happy with the current situation in Turkey.
“They blame the current economic situation on the unorthodox policies followed by the government, which they frame as irrational, and work hard to establish links between the country’s deepening economic crisis and the government’s economic policy in people’s mind,” Dalay said.
“They promise to make changes in almost all policy areas and change the political system Turkey is governed with. They want to finish what they say is ‘one-man rule’ and strengthen the institutions of the country again, promising accountability and transparency.”
Labour and Freedom Alliance
The left-wing alliance is led by the third largest party in Turkey, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the members of which will race in the parliamentary elections under the banner of the Green Left Party because of an ongoing court case.
The Workers’ Party of Turkey is the second-largest party in the alliance followed by smaller left-wing groups.
The alliance has backed Kilicdaroglu in the presidential elections. In its manifesto, the group said that its main goal is “to stop the destruction caused by the one-man rule” in Turkey.
- Earthquake relief: The Labour and Freedom Alliance wants to utilise all vacant housing stock and public social facilities in the country to urgently meet the needs of people affected by the earthquakes.
- Economy: The alliance backs left-wing economic policies, in particular those focused on improving living conditions for the working class and providing free and high-quality healthcare, transportation and education services.
- Governance: The group says it seeks to take the leading role in Turkey’s democratic transformation and backs a return to a parliamentary system.
- Kurds: The alliance wants a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue in the country through the Turkish parliament. They also seek to end the practice of removing duly elected HDP mayors and replacing them with government-appointed trustees.
- LGBTQ+: The alliance aims to remove all political, administrative, economic and cultural barriers to social gender equality for women and the LGBTQ community.
According to Dalay, the Labour and Freedom Alliance’s campaigning strategy includes “more politics rather than policies” as they are backing a third-party candidate and will not take over power themselves.
“The alliance is happy that the People’s Alliance’s candidate is Kilicdaroglu, a left-leaning candidate, which probably had a significant influence in their decision to back him,” he said.