Turkey will hold historic elections on June 24, when millions of its citizens will cast votes to choose their president and parliamentarians. On that day, the country will officially complete its transition to the presidential system of government. Over the next five years, the popularly-elected president and Parliament will jointly govern Turkey.
In this regard, it is noteworthy that the June 24 elections will be the first popular contest under the new system. A closer look at the electoral alliances, however, reveals that the situation is quite complicated. Therefore, I will first touch upon the various candidates and alliances and then provide an analysis of the election's probable outcome.
On June 24, Turkish voters will be presented with two ballots. The first ballot, which relates to the presidential race, will feature the names of several individuals. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) recently formed the People's Alliance, which nominated Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as their presidential candidate.
The alliance will work together in the presidential and parliamentary elections. Provided the two political parties have been collaborating for some time now, the People's Alliance already has a clear framework, set of principles and list of campaign pledges. In this sense, it would not be wrong to argue that the People's Alliance is more prepared for the upcoming election than the rest.
Meanwhile, a number of opposition figures have volunteered to challenge the incumbent, Mr. Erdoğan, in the presidential race. It is important to note that there is some confusion within the opposition ranks and significant differences between their original plan and the current situation.
The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) for some time now has been leading the efforts to form an alliance to counter the People's Alliance. Their original plan was to broker a grand coalition between the various opposition parties for both the presidential and parliamentary races. In this regard, the CHP and other opposition movements attempted to launch a joint presidential campaign through, possibly, Abdullah Gül, who was elected president in 2007 with Erdoğan's blessings.
The main opposition party's goal was to twist the incumbent's arm by fielding a former AK Party politician in the presidential race. Although Gül signed off on this plan, the opposition parties eventually failed to reach an agreement. Seeing that there was no consensus among opposition leaders, Gül announced his decision to not participate in the election.The opposition's strategy for the upcoming presidential election thus collapsed. Instead, the various opposition parties agreed to form an alliance for the parliamentary election alone - which, admittedly, was a step back from the original blueprint. In the end, the CHP, the Felicity Party (SP), the Good Party (İP) and the Democratic Party (DP) formed the National Alliance as they agreed to join forces in the presidential race if it went to the second round.
In the first round of the presidential race, however, the various opposition parties will work individually. Muharrem İnce, Meral Akşener and Temel Karamollaoğlu have been endorsed by the CHP, the İP and the SP, respectively. Having been denied a seat at the National Alliance's table, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) nominated its former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş.
So what should we expect on June 24? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the various candidates and alliances?
Needless to say, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the clear front-runner in the 2018 presidential race, mainly because half the electorate is happy with his actions and confident in his future plans.
Erdoğan most recently entered the presidential election on Aug. 10, 2014, which he won with 51 percent of the vote. In November 2015, the AK Party maintained its parliamentary majority by claiming 49.5 percent. Provided that no major systemic changes have occurred in Turkey since then and the country took important steps like successfully completing Operation Olive Branch, it is possible to say that President Erdoğan will secure the same level of support.
Moreover, it is important to note that the Turkish president has been nominated by the People's Alliance. Under these circumstances, supporters of the MHP, who constitute roughly 10 percent of the electorate, will presumably support their party's candidate. In other words, the People's Alliance has the potential to comfortably win a simple majority.
Had Turkey's opposition parties reached an agreement to jointly support a single presidential candidate, they could have had an opportunity to turn things around. But Akşener's refusal to cooperate made a joint presidential campaign impossible. Another important point is that İnce and Akşener are more likely to compete against each other than lure away Erdoğan's supporters. The HDP's decision to nominate Selahattin Demirtaş, in turn, created further divisions within the opposition bloc, which consists of three pieces.The reason for this state of fragmentation is that opposition parties have been planning for the second round of the presidential election. As such, the various opposition candidates will try to come second in the first round, hoping to qualify for the second round if Erdoğan fails to win in the first round. In this sense, opposition candidates expect to be jointly endorsed by the various opposition parties in the second round. If there is a second round, they will have competed against Erdoğan and made history by winning the opposition's support. At the very least, they want to give this plan a shot.
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