Presidential election campaigns are in full swing in Turkey, and the opposition candidates and their supporters have been in festive moods. Making campaign stops around the country, they have enjoyed imitating President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. As a matter of fact, the latest trend is to broadcast footage from Erdoğan's past speeches, which the candidates pause to provide commentary. On more than one occasion, those videos have been edited to include funny scenes from old comedy films. It is no wonder they have nothing original to contribute to the debate when the only thing they stand for is to oppose whatever Erdoğan says.The Erdoğan campaign, in contrast, has concentrated on unveiling major projects, including massive public parks, and presenting concrete road maps to boost economic growth and secure Turkey's borders. In other words, Erdoğan presents himself as a candidate with a vision for the future.At the same time, the incumbent adopted an unconventional approach by relying on face-to-face interaction rather than campaign spots and the media.
The Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) youth and women's branches have been knocking on doors across Turkey to educate voters about Erdoğan's plans and to ask for support. They also share parts of the movement's 390-page election manifesto with potential supporters.Meanwhile, the Republican People's Party (CHP) has the money and the cadres to mobilize support but prefers not to. The party hierarchy is notably reluctant to support Muharrem İnce, their designated presidential candidate and a long-standing rival of Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu; perhaps because the CHP's leadership wants to see İnce, whose stage performance and ability to put a smile on people's faces might not be enough to win the race, humiliated. Infighting rather than cooperation is the norm.
The foreign media's sweetheart, Good Party (İP) candidate Meral Akşener, has delivered an utterly disappointing performance on the campaign trail. Her lack of oratory skills have not only failed to impress voters but also took a heavy toll on attendance at her countrywide public appearances. To make matters worse, Akşener looks outlandish and aloof – which means that the more she speaks, the worse things get.
Finally, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) built its entire campaign around a sob story with their candidateSelahattin Demirtaş in prison over his alleged links to the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., Turkey and the EU. Like the rest of the opposition parties, the movement has failed to energize its base. Much like its 92-page election manifesto, which is full of leftist cliches and shallow romanticism, the HDP's presidential campaign has been terribly boring – and ultimately limited to holding onto ethno-nationalists.
In recent years, Daily Sabah has repeatedly suggested that there was something seriously wrong with the political opposition in Turkey. The ongoing race is no exception.
Unable to inspire confidence in the population or present voters with a vision for the future, opposition candidates have continually relied on baseless claims to control the narrative. In recent weeks, Akşener claimed that Erdoğan wants to purchase the S-400 missile defense system from Russia to protect the Presidential Complex in Ankara. She also constantly promises to cancel every megaproject Erdoğan has launched. İnce, meanwhile, claimed Erdoğan held talks with Fetullah Gülen, a U.S.-based terrorist, and lacked the oratory skills to address crowds without his teleprompter.
Simply put, the opposition candidates have been unable to convince anyone, including themselves, that they represent a viable alternative to Erdoğan. Instead, they simply urge voters not to support the incumbent –which, to nobody's surprise, makes it quite easy for the Turkish president to maintain his popularity.
Ahead of the June 24 elections, the public is looking at the performances of opposition parties and wondering out loud: What will Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's margin of victory be?