Turkish presidential election, 2018

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Turkish presidential election, 2018

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Opinion polls
  Recep Tayyip Erdogan 2017 (cropped).jpg Muharrem İnce (cropped).jpg Selahattin Demirtaş 2018 (cropped).jpg
Candidate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Muharrem İnce Selahattin Demirtaş[a]
Party AK Party CHP HDP
Alliance People's Alliance Nation Alliance None[b]

  Meral Akşener İYİ Party 1 (cropped).jpg Temel Karamollaoğlu presidential campaign (cropped).jpg Doğu Perinçek 2 (cropped).jpg
Candidate Meral Akşener Temel Karamollaoğlu Doğu Perinçek
Party İYİ Felicity Patriotic
Alliance Nation Alliance Nation Alliance None

Turkey provinces blank gray.svg
The 81 voting Provinces of Turkey

Incumbent President

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
AK Party



The Turkish presidential election of 2018 is scheduled to occur on 24 June 2018 as part of the 2018 general election, alongside parliamentary elections on the same day. Following the approval of constitutional changes in a referendum held in 2017, the elected President will be both the head of state and head of government of Turkey, taking over the latter role from the to-be-abolished office of the Prime Minister.[2]

The election was originally scheduled for November 2019. Despite insistence from the government that they would not be brought forward, speculation over an early vote continued since the 2017 referendum. After calls from Nationalist Movement Party leader Devlet Bahçeli for a snap election, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on 18 April 2018 that it would take place on 24 June.[3]

Incumbent president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared his candidacy for the People's Alliance (Turkish: Cumhur İttifakı) on 27 April 2018.[4] Turkey's main opposition, the Republican People's Party, nominated Muharrem İnce, a member of the parliament known for his combative opposition and spirited speeches against Erdoğan.[5] The Peoples' Democratic Party nominated the imprisoned ex-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş. Besides these candidates, Meral Akşener, the founder and leader of İyi Party,[6] Temel Karamollaoğlu, the leader of the Felicity Party and Doğu Perinçek, the leader of the Patriotic Party, have announced their candidacies and collected the 100,000 signatures required for nomination.

Campaigning for the election centred mainly on the faltering Turkish economy and the currency and debt crisis, with both government and opposition commentators warning of a more serious economic crisis following the election. The 2018 Gaza border protests, following the United States recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel, along with the Turkish military operation in Afrin, were also featured in the campaign.

Electoral system

Ballot paper used for the 2018 presidential election

The President of Turkey is directly elected through the two-round system, under which a candidate must obtain at least 50%+1 of the popular vote in order to be elected. If no candidate secures an overall majority outright, then a runoff is held between the two most voted-for candidates from the first round, the winner of which is then declared elected. The first direct election to the Turkish presidency was held in 2014, after a referendum in 2007 abolished the previous system under which the head of state was elected by the legislature, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. The President of Turkey is subject to term limits, and may serve at most two consecutive five-year terms.

Prospective presidential candidates must be at least 40 years old and must have completed higher education. Any political party that has won 5% of the vote in the previous parliamentary election can put forward a candidate, although parties that have not met this threshold can form alliances and field joint candidates as long as their total vote share exceeds 5%. Independents can run if they collect 100,000 signatures from the electorate.[7] An estimate released in July 2017 predicted that collecting 100,000 signatures to stand for election could exceed 15 million (US$4.2 million) in costs, if each individual signature would require certification by a notary.[8] However, the Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey (YSK) announced that signature collection would occur between 4 and 9 May, with voters having to submit their nominations at their local electoral council branch.

Based on the results of the previous general election in November 2015, only the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Republican People's Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) are eligible to field candidates for the presidential election. The remaining parties combined received under 3% of the vote and are thus unable to field either a joint candidate or a candidate in their own right. In addition to past election results, parties which have a parliamentary group can nominate a candidate. Thus, the newly formed İYİ Party was also eligible to nominate their candidate, since 15 CHP members of parliament defected to them with the intention of allowing the party to form a parliamentary group. However, İYİ Party leader and presidential candidates Meral Akşener insisted on being nominated by collecting signatures rather than through parliament.

Candidates

Official candidates

The Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) formally announced the candidates on 13 May.[9]

Official list of presidential candidates in order they appear on the ballot paper[10]
1 2 3 4 5 6
Muharrem İnce (cropped).jpg Meral Akşener İYİ Party 1 (cropped).jpg
Recep Tayyip Erdogan 2017.jpg
Selahattin Demirtaş 2018 (cropped).jpg Temel Karamollaoğlu presidential campaign (cropped).jpg
Doğu Perinçek 2 (cropped).jpg
Muharrem İnce Meral Akşener Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Selahattin Demirtaş Temel Karamollaoğlu Doğu Perinçek
CHP
(Nation Alliance)
İYİ
(Nation Alliance)
AK Party
(People's Alliance)
HDP
(No alliance)
Felicity
(Nation Alliance)
Patriotic
(No alliance)
View campaign View campaign View campaign View campaign View campaign View campaign

Selection process

Former President Abdullah Gül announces that he will not stand as a presidential candidate on 28 April

In the run-up to the election, various parties underwent a candidate selection process to nominate presidential candidates.

People's Alliance (AKP and MHP)

Serving president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was widely seen as the undisputed candidate of the People's Alliance, an alliance set up by the governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). This was confirmed by MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli on 21 April 2018.[11] The AK Party parliamentary group voted unanimously to nominate Erdoğan on 3 May.[12]

Republican People's Party (CHP)

Muharrem İnce being announced as the CHP's presidential candidate on 4 May

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) began a wide search for a candidate, with several rumours that the party was content with supporting a cross-party candidate that was not necessarily in line with the party's values as part of an election alliance. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu subsequently conducted several meetings with the leaders of the Felicity Party and the İYİ Party. Former President Abdullah Gül was mentioned as a cross-party option, allegedly receiving the support of senior officials, but was disbanded following heavy opposition from the lower ranks and voters. Gül eventually announced that he would not stand, citing the lack of cross-party consensus.[13] Despite ruling it out several times, party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was frequently mentioned as a potential candidate, along with Yılmaz Büyükerşen, İlhan Kesici, Muharrem İnce and Mehmet Haberal. Certain MPs, such as Öztürk Yılmaz and Didem Engin also publicly declared their interest.[14] On 26 April, CHP MP Özgür Özel, himself seen as a potential candidate, announced that their nominee would be one who would make the AKP 'crazy' the most.[15] On 4 May, Yalova MP Muharrem İnce was declared the party's candidate.[16]

Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP)

HDP co-leader Sezai Temelli meeting party activists in Diyarbakır on 30 April to gauge views on their presidential candidate

The HDP nominated Selahattin Demirtaş, their former leader who was also the HDP's candidate in 2014, on 4 May.[17] It was reported that the party executive had broadly agreed on Demirtaş earlier, raising concern that his preventative detention since 2016 could potentially bar him from running. Originally due in court on 11 April, Demirtaş's trial for charges of 'spreading terrorist propaganda' was delayed to 30 April, and then again to 8 June.[18] His candidacy was announced as a part of a 'broad coalition of Kurdish and left-wing parties'.[19] His lawyers and HDP officials claimed that his detention wouldn't affect his candidacy.[20] In his first message after announcing his candidacy, he called on his supporters to be his 'hands and arms' during the campaign.[21]

İYİ Party

Meral Akşener announcing her presidential ambitions during the establishment of the İyi Party on 25 October 2017

Upon announcing the İYİ Party's establishment on 25 October 2017, party leader Meral Akşener announced that she would be a candidate in the presidential election.[22] She reaffirmed her candidacy on 18 April 2018, shortly after the election was called.[23] The party subsequently received pressure from the CHP and the Felicity Party (SP) to enter a joint alliance and support a cross-party candidate, with the SP supporting Abdullah Gül.[24] Akşener refused to withdraw her candidacy, with the party's General Administration Council voting unanimously to nominate her as their party candidate on 24 April 2018.[25]

Felicity Party (SP)

SP leader Temel Karamollaoğlu and CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu meet to discuss a joint candidate on 23 April 2018

In the run-up to the election, SP leader Temel Karamollaoğlu managed to carry his party to the mainstream media following a number of speeches where he heavily criticised the government. This led to the SP being regarded as a potential kingmaker in future alliances, causing several larger parties to approach Karamollaoğlu in a bid to field a joint candidate. Although this led to the Nation Alliance being established between the SP, CHP and the İYİ Party, no consensus was reached on a joint presidential candidate and each party decided to nominate their own. The SP polled their members on four potential candidates, namely Karamollaoğlu, Abdullah Gül, Haşim Kılıç and Abdüllatif Şener. Karamollaoğlu was announced as the party's candidate on 1 May.[26]

Others

The left-wing Patriotic Party declared their leader Doğu Perinçek as their candidate. As part of a triple alliance of small centre-right parties consisting of the Motherland Party (ANAP), the True Path Party (DYP) and the Justice Party (AP), the AP's leader Vecdet Öz was nominated as a joint candidate. As independents, journalist Levent Gültekin and Tuna Bekleviç declared their intentions to run.

Nominations

İYİ Party candidate Meral Akşener signs for her own nomination, 4 May 2018
Signatures received by each candidate between 4 and 9 May 2018

The Constitution of Turkey, amended following the controversial 2017 constitutional referendum, allows any party with a parliamentary group (at least 20 MPs) to nominate a presidential candidate. This meant that the AK Party, CHP, HDP, MHP and technically the İYİ Party were eligible to automatically nominate candidates through parliament. Meral Akşener, the İYİ Party's leader and presidential candidate, opted to be nominated through signatures instead. The MHP, as part of the People's Alliance, did not field a candidate and announced support for the AK Party's candidate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The CHP formally nominated Muharrem İnce and the HDP nominated Selahattin Demirtaş. The remaining candidates were required to collect at least 100,000 signatures.

Voters were able to give signatures to their preferred presidential candidate between 4 May and 9 May at their local electoral council branch. They were only permitted to nominate one candidate. The number of signatures needed to formally become a candidate was 100,000. Seven candidates applied to the YSK to seek nomination by signatures, with three applications being rejected due to insufficient paperwork. As a result, the remaining four successful applicants were as follows.

Voters abroad were not eligible to give signatures, prompting Perinçek to appeal to the Constitutional Court, arguing that the YSK had violated the rights of Turkish citizens abroad. Overseas citizens were, however, allowed to send a signed declaration by post to their local electoral council in Turkey. Only 72 overseas citizens did so, with 17 signing for Akşener, 18 signing for Karamollaoğlu, 35 signing for Perinçek and no signatures for Öz.[27]

Party Candidate Daily signatures Result
4 May[28] 5 May[29] 6 May[30] 7 May[31] 8 May[32] 9 May[33]
İYİ Meral Akşener
Green tickY 127,850
173,569
207,142
232,744
246,684
255,582
Green tickY Nominated
SP Temel Karamollaoğlu
44,959
95,168
Green tickY 135,945
150,134
160,680
167,967
Green tickY Nominated
VATAN Doğu Perinçek
14,555
26,845
45,026
65,433
93,919
Green tickY 118,575
Green tickY Nominated
AP Vecdet Öz
231
706
1,256
2,015
2,505
3,030
Red XN Not nominated
Totals
187,595
296,288
389,369
450,426
503,788
545,154

Campaign

Erdoğan campaign

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, incumbent President of Turkey since 2014, was officially nominated as the presidential candidate of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) on 3 May 2018.[34] Shortly thereafter, the nominally oppositional Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) reiterated that it would endorse Erdoğan's candidacy, and would jointly apply to the electoral commission for its formal registration.[35] In early May, it was confirmed by Erdoğan that he would be visiting the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo in the early stages of the campaign, most likely on 20 May 2018, and hold campaign rallies with the Bosnian Turks to drum up support for his re-election bid.[36]

During a leaked speech of a private meeting with AKP officials, Erdogan ordered them to go in great number as official reprentatives in voting locations as to be the majority and seize control of the ballot boxes, ensuring that the "work there would be finished before it even started". He also ordered them to target HDP voters with the help of AKP local officials who he assured them would be in possession of voters lists to help with their "special work". All this in order to ensure HDP would fail below the 10 % quorum, which would greatly help AKP and prevent a repeat of the "7 june experience"[37].

İnce campaign

Muharrem İnce at the CHP manifesto launch, 26 May

Muharrem İnce, a member of parliament for Yalova, was announced as the presidential candidate of the Republican People's Party (CHP) on 3 May 2018.[38] On the following day, 4 May, party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu formally proclaimed the CHP's support for İnce.[39] Shortly thereafter, the CHP began preparations for the campaign season, launching the production of campaign material and merchandise. It was revealed in early May that İnce's campaign would adopt the slogan "Türkiye'ye güvence Muharrem İnce", roughly translating to "Muharrem İnce, an assurance to Turkey",[40] and that it would be kicked off with an election rally in his home city of Yalova on 5 May.[41]

Demirtaş campaign

Selahattin Demirtaş's campaign being launched outside Edirne prison where he is incarcerated, 25 May

Selahattin Demirtaş was officially announced as the candidate of the People's Democratic Party (HDP) on 4 May 2018, after members of the party had hinted at his candidacy weeks in advance.[42] Party leader Pervin Buldan declared that Demirtaş, a jailed former co-chair of the HDP, would be leading a five-party "Kurdish alliance" into the general election.[43]

Akşener campaign

Meral Akşener was nominated as the candidate of the İyi Party on 4 May 2018, after she had succesfully collected the 100,000 signatures required for minor party candidates to gain ballot access. Reportedly, she passed this threshold less than four hours after having launched her signature collection campaign.[44]

Karamollaoğlu campaign

Temel Karamollaoğlu beginning his campaign on 1 May

Temel Karamollaoğlu was nominated as the candidate of the Felicity Party (SP) on 6 May 2018, after he had succesfully collected the 100,000 signatures required for minor party candidates to gain ballot access. Karamollaoğlu's campaign adopted the slogan "Türkiye'ye bilge başkan" ("A wise leader for Turkey").

Perinçek campaign

Doğu Perinçek was nominated as the candidate of the VATAN Party on 9 May 2018, after he had successfully collected the 100,000 signatures required for minor party candidates to gain ballot access.[45]

Endorsements

Parties

Candidate Endorsement Ideology
MHP
Nationalist Movement Party Turkish nationalism
BBP
Great Unity Party Sunni Islamism
HÜDAPAR
Free Cause Party[46] Pan-Islamism
ANAP
Motherland Party[47] Social conservatism
ASP
AS Party[48] Pro-military
YURT-P
Homeland Party[49] Turkish nationalism
DBP
Democratic Regions Party[50] Kurdish nationalism
ÖDP
Freedom and Solidarity Party[50] Libertarian socialism
ÖSP
Freedom and Socialism Party[50] Marxism
EMEP
Labour Party[51] Democratic socialism
PSK
Kurdistan Socialist Party[50] Kurdish nationalism
PAK
Kurdistan Freedom Party[52] Kurdish nationalism
KDP-T
Kurdistan Democratic Party/North[52] Kurdish nationalism
ESP
Socialist Party of the Oppressed[53] Communism
EHP
Labourist Movement Party[53] Communism
DP
Democrat Party Liberal conservatism
DYP
True Path Party (Muğla branch)[54] Liberal conservatism
HEPAR
Rights and Equality Party Turkish nationalism

NGOs and unions

Controversies

State of emergency

On 20 July 2016, five days after an attempted coup, the government declared a state of emergency (Turkish: Olağanüstü Hal, OHAL), allowing ministers to rule the country by decree, bypassing parliament and limiting certain civil freedoms. The government have frequently been criticised for violating the constitutional limits of a state of emergency, using it as an excuse for governing without any political opposition. Since 2016, the state of emergency has been extended for the sixth time, with parliament voting to extend it by a further three months on 18 January 2018.[55] The extension led to speculation that the election would occur under state of emergency conditions, similar to the controversial 2017 constitutional referendum.

Heather Nauert, the Spokesperson for the United States Department of State and acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, issued a statement on 20 April citing 'concern' for whether free and fair elections would be possible under a state of emergency.[56] On 24 April, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) issued a statement calling for the elections to be delayed, declaring that they would not meet European standards or be held in a democratic manner.[57] Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, also issued a statement calling for the state of emergency to end in order to guarantee credible elections.[58]

The calls to end the state of emergency were criticised by the Turkish government and loyal members of parliament, who called the PACE declaration 'politicised, unfair, unjust and beyond the limits'.[59] Prime minister Binali Yıldırım criticised PACE for being 'non-credible' due to it having invited Democratic Union Party (PYD) chairman Salih Muslim, who is regarded as a terrorist leader by Turkey, to give a speech.[60] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared Nauert's statements about a forthcoming election 'unacceptable'.[61]

Media censorship

Following his nomination as the CHP's presidential candidate on 4 May, Muharrem İnce began his campaign with a rally in his hometown of Yalova. It was noted that only pro-opposition TV channels such as Halk TV were covering the event, with the state broadcaster TRT notably absent. In his next rally at Balıkesir, İnce declared that if TRT were to continue not broadcasting opposition campaigns, he would march to the TRT headquarters with the CHP's 130 MPs and conduct his next rally in front of them.[62]

A similar situation was observed during the İYİ Party's first extraordinary congress on 1 April, which was only covered by Halk TV. In response, party leader Meral Akşener claimed that she had not embarked on her campaign with any expectations from 'the government's media'.[63] The party subsequently sent the TRT photos from the congress, an abacus and a calculator as a 'present', so that they could count how many people attended the event.[64]

Election violence

Felicity Party leader and candidate Temel Karamollaoğlu visits injured MP candidate Mehmet Fethi Öztürk in hospital, 26 May 2018

On 7 May, a group armed with knives and clubs consisting of allegedly 50 to 60 people approached an İYİ Party election stand in Bağcılar, İstanbul, wounding 8 people with one in critical condition.[65][66] The group allegedly consisted of rival Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) campaigners, many of which had reportedly been suspended from the party for past violent activity.[67] A total of 8 people were arrested following the attack, with six being released and two being charged afterwards.[68]

On 8 May, the house of İYİ Party founding member Mehmet Aslan in Beykoz, İstanbul was shot at by unknown assailants. Aslan was not in the building at the time.[69]

On 26 May, a group of Felicity Party and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) activists engaged in a brawl in Ankara following a dispute over hanging up party flags. Clubs were used by MHP activists, injuring 7 Felicity Party activists with two in serious condition.[70] Felicity Party MP candidate for Ankara, Mehmet Fethi Öztürk, was among the two seriously injured. Gunshots were also reported, which were blamed on Öztürk and led to his arrest while in hospital.[71]

Nomination irregularities

The Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey (YSK) had devised a system to collect signatures for voters to nominate candidates, with the process taking place between 4 and 9 May. On 8 May, Patriotic Party leader Doğu Perinçek, who by that time was close to reaching the 100,000 signatures needed for nomination, criticised the system for irregularities. Perinçek claimed that the system has crashed throughout 8 May, affecting people who wanted to give signatures, criticising the government for incompetence.[72] The crashes in the system caused doubt about whether Perinçek would reach the required 100,000 signatures by the 9 May deadline.[73] Regardless, Perinçek managed to surpass 100,000 signatures by noon on 9 May.

Opinion polls

Opinion polls have been conducted to gauge voter intentions for the presidential election. Polls have generally shown a clear lead for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, though with vote totals below his 2014 election victory where he was elected with 51.8% of the vote outright. Indicating that a second round will most likely take place, the polls indicate that there is competition between Muharrem İnce and Meral Akşener over who will proceed to the run-off and face Erdoğan. Emboldened vote shares indicate percentages above 50%, indicating outright first round victory.

Date Pollster Sample Erdoğan İnce Akşener Demirtaş Karamollaoğlu Perinçek Lead 1 Lead 2
13 Jun 2018 Plus Mayak 45.8 28.9 13.1 10.2 1.8 0.2 16.9 15.8
13 Jun 2018 AKAM 2,460 44.5 29.0 14.5 9.3 2.5 0.2 15.5 15.5
6–13 Jun 2018 REMRES 5,674 43.6 29.5 12.3 11.4 3.0 0.2 14.1 17.2
11 Jun 2018 CHP 45.6 32.2 8.2 10.7 3.1 0.2 13.4 24.0
8–11 Jun 2018 Mediar 2,410 48.0 29.9 9.2 10.2 2.1 0.8 18.1 19.7
6 Jun 2018 İYİ Party 42.0 22.4 22.7 11.0 1.9 19.3 0.3
1–6 Jun 2018 MAK 5,400 51.5 24.4 12.5 8.8 2.2 0.6 29.6 11.9
29 May–1 June 2018 Sonar 3,000 48.3 31.4 9.5 8.2 2.1 0.5 16.9 21.9
28 May–1 June 2018 ORC 3,410 53.4 23.8 11.5 8.7 2.1 0.5 29.6 12.3
1–28 May 2018 Konsensus 2,000 47.9 26.8 14.8 9.7 0.7 0.1 21.1 12.0
22–23 May 2018 Mediar 4,268 43.5 22.2 19.3 12.8 1.6 0.6 21.3 2.9
17–23 May 2018 REMRES 4,276 42.2 24.6 16.9 12.3 3.8 0.2 17.6 7.7
13–20 May 2018 MAK 5,000 51.4 23.9 12.3 9.6 2.2 0.6 27.5 11.6
7–17 May 2018 Sonar 3,000 42.0 21.9 21.0 11.0 2.1 2.0 20.1 0.9
25 Apr–13 May 2018 Politic's 2,650 52.2 25.5 12.3 8.5 1.1 0.4 26.7 13.2
6–9 May 2018 REMRES 3,653 42.1 24.1 17.1 12.6 3.9 0.2 18.0 7.0
10 Aug 2014 Election[a] 51.7
(Erdoğan)
38.6
(İhsanoğlu)
N/A 9.8
(Demirtaş)
N/A N/A 13.1 26.8

Notes

  1. ^ Since 2016 in preventive detention in Istanbul[1]
  2. ^ Supported by the left-wing political parties and groups of the HDK

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