Turkiye will go to the polls on Sunday.
Turkish citizens will have to choose between two starkly different rivals when they visit the voting booth this weekend. A historian and analyst says President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s presidency has run its course and the time for change has come.
The longtime president, who steered the Eurasian country for 20 years, will face Kemal Kilicdaroglu and a broad opposition at the polls. The former has promised the creation of six million jobs. His rival campaigned on a pro-West ticket.
Time for change in Turkiye
Incumbent president Erdogan assumed political office as mayor of Istanbul after winning the 1994 local election under the Islamist Welfare Party. Stripped of his position, banned from political office and incarcerated for inciting hatred, he went on to establish the AKP and became prime minister in 2003.
The Turks are divided on his leadership, but many say it is time for him to go. This sentiment was particularly strong in the aftermath of the deadly earthquakes that struck the south of the country earlier this year.
“I think it’s time to change the leader in Turkiye now,” said Dr Halim Gençoğlu, a Turkish historian working at Wits University.
Cautioning against undue Western influence, Gençoğlu said Turks needed a new face and “a different government”. However, he warned that one man in power for too long could lead to a dictatorship.
“Basically, it becomes a dictatorship if it goes on like this. It’s actually now challenging democracy, so it would be great to see a new leader … I do not agree with what the United States or United Nations say about Turkiye,” he said.
Aside from promising the creation of six million jobs, Erdogan has accused the West of a concerted attempt to bring him down. He also vowed never to support the LGBTQAI+ community and raised public worker salaries by 45% just days before the election.
“AK Party and other parties in our alliance would never be pro-LGBT, because family is sacred to us. We will bury those pro-LGBT in the ballot box,” the president told the crowd at an Istanbul rally on Sunday.
His chief rival, in contrast, wants to take Turkiye down a more democratic, more western, route. He also wants to scrap the current presidential system that has afforded Erdogan sweeping powers. Instead, he wants a more “impartial” leader who is not linked to a political party with Parliament taking charge.
His promise: “I will serve all 85 million citizens of Turkey. I will show respect for each of you”.
The economy is a major factor to consider. Inflation, officially at 43.68%, has hit Turks particularly hard. This is quite different from the strong economic growth synonymous with the early Erdogan years.