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Turkey: Erdogan launches campaign ahead of May election

Turkey's Erdogan launches campaign ahead of pivotal May election
2 min read
11 April, 2023
The 14 May presidential and parliamentary election will take place in the shadow of the devastating earthquake that struck the southern part of the country in February. 
Erdogan is expected to face a difficult challenge in the upcoming election [Ozan Guzelce/ dia images via Getty Images]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) have kicked off their re-election campaign ahead of simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections on 14 May. 

The election will take place in the shadow of the devastating earthquake that struck the southern part of the country in February, which killed more than 45,000 people in Turkey and thousands more in neighbouring Syria.

Erdogan has spent the past two decades in power and has managed to exert strong control over the country's institutions during this time. However, observers believe Erdogan will face a difficult campaign following the February earthquake. 

Public anger has surged following the quake, as his government has been accused of regularising shoddy construction before the quake which worsened the destruction.

His administration has also been dogged by allegations of poor crisis management following the disaster, and the Turkish economy continues to struggle with annual inflation soaring to 50 percent. 

His main opponent is the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Heading an alliance of six parties, Kilicdaroglu - a former bureaucrat - hopes to dislodge Erdogan from the presidential seat. 

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have chosen not to field a presidential candidate, which is seen as tacit support for Kilicdaroglu. 

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Erdogan made conciliatory gestures to Turkey's Kurdish minority soon after he came to power as prime minister in 2003 but relations deteriorated as the conflict in neighbouring Syria dragged on.

A ceasefire with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought a long-running insurgency against the Turkish state, ended in 2015, with Turkey later intervening in Syria against Syrian Kurdish forces it accused of being linked to the PKK.

Since then hundreds of Kurdish politicians and activists have been imprisoned by Erdogan's government. Turkish forces continue to launch strikes on Kurdish positions across the border in Syria and Iraq. 

Around 64.2 million people are eligible to vote in the upcoming election both in Turkey and from abroad. 

A presidential candidate needs more than 50 percent of the vote to win the election. If not, there will be a runoff two weeks later on 28 May.