Turkish presidential election goes to second round

May 18, 2023
2023 Turkish election
Supporters of the HDP and Green Left Party rally in Turkey. Photo: @nvillumsen/Twitter

The Turkish general election on May 14 had mixed results. On the one hand, the right-wing incumbent presidential candidate, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, failed to get 50% and so there will be a second round of voting on May 28. In addition, while his Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the most seats in the national assembly, with 267 out of 600 seats (28 fewer than it won in the 2018 election) it will have to rely even more on its right-wing ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), to pass legislation.

On the other hand, the left and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was forced at the last minute to contest as the Green Left Party (YSP) and as a result had its assembly seats reduced from 67 to 61. It remains the third largest party in the national assembly. The YSP has lodged appeals to the electoral board, and stands to win up to six more seats if its evidence of irregularities is accepted.

The May 28 presidential runoff will be between Erdoğan and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the traditional Turkish nationalist (Kemalist) party, which has more recently promised to peacefully resolve the Kurdish question and to release former HDP chairman Demirtas, imprisoned since 2016 on trumped up terrorism charges.

The HDP and YSP supported Kılıçdaroğlu presidential candidacy and did not field their own presidential candidate.

On May 14 Kılıçdaroğlu won 44.9% while Erdoğan won 49.5% (with a lot of cheating and manipulation).

HDP co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar and the co-spokespersons of the YSP Çiğdem Kılıçgün Uçar and İbrahim Akın said in a May 15 joint statement “that the election results cannot be seen as a success for us”.

“Our party was subjected to detention and arrest operations for political reasons from the beginning of the election campaign. We faced government crackdowns throughout the entire campaign with the Kobanî and HDP closure cases. These lawsuits led to an atmosphere of pressure during the election campaign. The closure case hung over our heads like a sword of Damocles, preventing a free and fair election in Turkey. Conspiracies and closure cases were used in an attempt to bar the will of millions of our voters.

“During the election campaign, the government detained and imprisoned hundreds of our friends through a new political operation every day, creating conditions that undermined our most fundamental right, the right to democratic politics.”

The statement added that the Erdoğan government encouraged racist attacks on their activists and “used all kinds of public resources and power to their advantage during the election period”.

“The government crackdown and election fraud tipped the balance in the results of the election.

“The biggest conspiracy against us was the prevention of the HDP from entering the elections. We had to work with the Green Left Party in a short time to not leave our people without a choice against this trick and conspiracy. We faced difficulties in preparing and publicising the Green Left Party for the elections in a short time.

“These difficulties were increased with the censorship and isolation imposed by the mainstream media. The disadvantages of organising a new alliance (Labour and Freedom Alliance) reflected in the field and the problems caused by the fact that our proposal was not implemented, despite our insistence as the Green Left Party to enter the elections with one list and one party.”

The HDP and YSL promised to make a self-critical evaluation of their campaign and to “fulfill the historical role, mission, and responsibility given to us by our people concerning the presidential elections, which are heading towards a second round”.

“We have a tradition that does not limit the struggle for democracy to ballot boxes but organises life and society,” the joint statement continued.

“We will never give up our struggle for the Democratic Republic. We will continue our struggle in the strongest way possible to realise our political goals and end the one-man regime.”

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