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3 Candidates In Race For President As Turks Vote Today

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3 Candidates In Race For President As Turks Vote Today

President Tayyip Erdogan will put his two-decade rule on the line today when he faces opposition challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, in Turkey’s landmark elections.

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Surveys show Kilicdaroglu ahead of him in the first round of voting. If no candidate secures more than half of the votes in the first round, a May 28 run-off will be held between the two leading candidates.

Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party counts the nationalist MHP as its main ally. The secularist CHP and five other parties form an opposition alliance that is expected to get support from the main Kurdish party HDP, giving it an edge in some polls.

Only three candidates remain in the race for president after Muharrem Ince, representing a small party, withdrew.

Following are descriptions of key figures in the presidential and parliamentary elections:

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES:

President Tayyip Erdogan

Erdogan, 69, rose to power 20 years ago as Turkey emerged from a period of rampant inflation, promising sound government after the coalition of the time was accused of mismanagement. At the height of his success, Turkey enjoyed a protracted economic boom with rising living standards for its 85 million people.

Turkey’s longest-serving leader logged more than a dozen election victories and survived an attempted coup in 2016. He has shaped the country to his vision of a pious, conservative society and assertive regional player, even as critics say he has used the courts to crack down on dissent.

On the campaign trail, Erdogan has sought to sway voters by promoting big infrastructure and construction projects, showcasing Turkey’s industrial milestones, and warning of chaos in government in the event of an opposition win.

CHP Leader Kemal Kilicdariglu

Kilicdaroglu, 74, head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was named the six-party opposition alliance’s presidential candidate in March. Long stuck in Erdogan’s shadow, he has failed to close the gap with the AKP in parliamentary elections since he took the center-left CHP’s reins in 2010.

A former civil servant, Kilicdaroglu entered parliament in 2002 with the CHP, which was established by modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and has struggled to reach beyond its secularist grassroots towards conservatives.

He has struck an inclusive tone as he has sought to attract voters disillusioned by Erdogan’s rhetoric and perceived economic mismanagement, promising economic prosperity as well as greater respect for human rights and rule of law.

Sinan Ogan

Sinan Ogan, 55, has little prospect of victory. A former academic who established the think-tank TURKSAM, he entered parliament in 2011 with the far-right MHP. He launched an unsuccessful bid for leadership of the MHP in 2015 and was subsequently expelled from the party.

ERDOGAN ALLY:

MHP Leader Devlet Bahceli

Ultra-nationalist leader, Devlet Bahceli, 75, has helped Erdogan keep his grip on power after supporting his bid to switch to an executive presidency in a 2017 referendum. Previously a staunch opponent of Erdogan, Bahceli’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) began to work with the president and his AKP after a 2016 attempted coup. A hatred of the PKK and a hardline stance against pro-Kurdish parties is a key part of Bahceli’s discourse.

OPPOSITION FIGURES:

IYI Party Leader Merat Aksener

Former interior minister, Meral Aksener, 66, leads the second-largest party in the opposition alliance, the centrist and nationalist IYI party. She has risen to greater prominence since 2016 when she was expelled from the MHP after mounting an unsuccessful bid to oust Bahceli. She appeals to conservative voters and those disenchanted with the MHP’s alliance with the AKP.

Former HDP Leader Selahattin Demirtas

Former leader of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas, 49, remains a key political figure despite being in jail since 2016. Demirtas faces a potential life sentence in a case in which he has been charged with instigating 2014 protests in which dozens died.

HDP, which announced it will support Kilicdaroglu’s candidacy, will run under the Green Left Party in the parliamentary vote to circumvent its potential closure ahead of elections.

DEVA Party Leader Ali Babacan

Babacan, 55, is an ex-deputy prime minister and former close ally of Erdogan who quit the AKP in 2019 over differences about its direction. He formed the Deva (Remedy) Party and urged reforms to boost the rule of law and democracy. A former economy and foreign minister, he was well regarded by foreign investors.

 

Davutoglu

Davutoglu, 64, a former prime minister and foreign minister, broke with the AKP in 2019 and established the Gelecek (Future) Party. In the first decade of AKP rule he championed a less confrontational foreign policy with the mantra “zero problems with neighbours”, and has since criticised what he describes as a lurch towards authoritarianism under the executive presidency.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu

After five years as CHP mayor of an Istanbul district, former businessman Ekrem Imamoglu, 52, rose to prominence in 2019 when he defeated the AKP’s candidate in the Istanbul municipal election. He was sentenced to more than two years in prison in 2022 for insulting public officials and faces a political ban if the ruling is upheld.

Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas

Nationalist politician and lawyer, Mansur Yavas, 67, defeated the AKP’s Ankara mayoral candidate 2019 as the CHP candidate backed by an opposition alliance. He served for 10 years as the nationalist MHP mayor of an Ankara district until 2009. He left the MHP and joined CHP in 2013. (Reuters)

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