Before the elections in Turkey: the opposition is optimistic

In Turkey, the withdrawal of a counting candidate increases the chances of an election victory for the opposition. Young people in particular want a change.

Two young women with headbands from the Turkish opposition party CHP

Many young people hope that the CHP candidate will win the elections Photo: Murad Sezer/Reuters

ISTANBUL taz | A few days before the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey, the chances of the opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu improved again on Thursday afternoon when Muharrem Ince, one of the two counting candidates, announced his withdrawal. Ince could only have counted on around 3 percent anyway, but at least those might have been the points that Kılıçdaroğlu would have missed for a win in the first ballot.

Meanwhile, young people across the country are mobilizing for the opposition candidate, and not just using traditional means. For example, on a video that is sent to the world via Tik-Tok, a young woman can be seen advertising make-up products. She has thousands of followers, presumably also young women. She never had anything to do with politics.

But on this day, two days before the all-important presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey, she explains to her viewers how she will wear make-up on election day. She puts red on her cheeks, the color of the opposition, and in the corner of her eye she paints the party emblem of the opposition CHP, six arrows that are supposed to symbolize the traditional goals of the CHP. Then she adds an arrow: “For the freedom of women”.

Many, especially young women, are right to fear for their lives and freedom if President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wins again. Her video on Tik-Tok is free publicity for the opposition and shows how much a large proportion of young people want change.

Opposition election campaign went better than hoped

Erdoğan has very few supporters among first-time and young voters in the country, even given the uncertain data available from pollsters. Several times during the election campaign, the opposition presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu himself used social media to reach out to young people voting for the first time, promising them a “free country” if they help bring about a change of government.

The 74-year-old Kılıçdaroğlu jokingly wants to be called “Democrat Dede”, grandfather of democracy, and many people believe this self-chosen nickname. Unlike Erdoğan’s campaign appearances, there are a lot of young people in the opposition. Since the average age in Turkey is still around 30 years, this is an important indicator for the outcome of the election next Sunday.

Overall, the entire election campaign for the opposition went almost better than hoped. Even in cities where Erdoğan’s AKP has dominated for years, Kılıçdaroğlu’s events were packed. And while people came to Kılıçdaroğlu voluntarily and often with great difficulty, the government used significant resources and political pressure on its existing supporters to fill the stadiums and squares for Erdoğan.

This was also evident at the candidates’ two biggest events last weekend in Istanbul. Hundreds of thousands of people turned out for the opposition rally on Saturday, although the government temporarily stopped the metro to the venue and did everything it could to make attendance difficult. On Sunday, on the other hand, she needed 10,000 city buses for her own event, which were practically confiscated to fill the old airport for Erdogan.

The opposition is providing more election observers than ever

Nevertheless, the outcome of the election is still uncertain and this is not only due to the unreliable polls, but also because the government could manipulate the elections, as many fear. That is why the opposition has mobilized an unprecedented large number of election observers who should be present at every ballot box where voting is taking place.

Party officials and independent observers work with state election officials to control the ballot, then count the votes cast, and each ballot result is signed by an election official and two party officials. Then there is a control slip for all observers, which is immediately photographed and sent to the individual party headquarters, which then have the opportunity to count the results along with the official election authorities.

Still, there will be room for manipulation, especially in the Kurdish areas, where some ballot boxes are placed in barracks for ostensible security reasons, in the earthquake zone, where voter lists are no longer secure, and in some areas of central Anatolia, where the opposition is so weak that it cannot provide observers everywhere.

Nevertheless, the CHP and the Kurdish HDP are optimistic that the volume of votes that could be manipulated is too small to be decisive in the election. “Everything depends on it,” Mustafa Yeneroğlu, a leading member of the opposition DEVA party, told the default, “that we will win the presidential election in the first ballot”. If that is not the case, the next two weeks until the possible runoff election on May 28 will be “very difficult”.

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