Ian Bremmer, President of the political-risk consultancy firm The Eurasia Group, has issued a succinct analysis of the most pressing issues for the Turkish president as he faces reelection.
Chief among them, according to Bremmer, are his government’s mishandling of the earthquakes that claimed over 45,000 lives and displaced millions of people across ten provinces in Turkey’s southeast.
“While the president may be able to weaponize his control of the media and government spending to contain the immediate political fallout, the damage to his credibility as a steady hand is already done.”
Erdoğan’s more immediate challenge comes in the form of an opposition bloc that, despite its “notoriously fractious” tendencies, has united under CHP party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu as its presidential candidate.
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP)—often referred to as the election’s kingmakers—will be important for Kılıçdaroğlu to win over without alienating his largest coalition partner, the conservative and nationalist Good Party (IYIP). So far, the HDP has signaled support for the opposition by announcing that it won’t field a candidate of its own.
Recent polls show Kılıçdaroğlu ahead of President Erdoğan, but Bremmer predicts along with several other analysts that neither candidate will win in the first round. It is still unclear, however, whether Kılıçdaroğlu will be able to maintain his coalition’s unity. More importantly, Erdoğan has eliminated most checks on presidential power and is likely to “use any means at his disposal—however heavy-handed or anti-democratic—to tilt the scales in his favor.”
“At a minimum, he will ramp up state-financed handouts to buy votes and try to link the HDP with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to paint his chief rival as a terrorist sympathizer. Should he feel cornered enough, he could jail opposition leaders under false pretenses and criminalize dissent.”
However, Bremmer claims that, “even if fear tactics and repression help him secure another term,” nothing Erdoğan does at this point is likely to earn genuine support beyond his core base even if he wins again. The upcoming elections, he concludes, will be his most significant test in his 20 years in power.
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