Voters return to the polls in Turkey for presidential run: NPR
Turkish voters go to the polls this weekend in a decisive runoff vote – the first time voters have ever gone to the ballot box in a presidential runoff vote. new.
ARI SHAPIRO, Guest:
Once again, voters in Turkey will try to elect a president on Sunday. It is a run-off between the top two candidates after the first round of elections did not produce a clear winner. Turkey’s strong-willed leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been in power for two decades and faces his biggest challenge yet against Kemal Kilicdaroglu. That makes it a critical pick for the regional powerhouse and key US ally. NPR’s Fatma Tanis is covering it from Istanbul. Hi there.
FATMA TANIS, BYLINE: Hi.
SHAPIRO: What’s the scene like there right now?
TANIS: Well, he’s trembling with anticipation. You hear political debates in the street. I passed one young man who was diligently trying to convince his neighbor on the other side, to no avail, it seemed. Later, outside the spice bazaar today, rival campaign buses lined up, blasting their own music, and a crowd of supporters each danced to their political tune. himself. You know, elections are very big in Turkey, and the turnout is very high. We are talking about the 89% turnout in the last round. People here feel that politics has a direct impact on their lives. And for many, this election in particular is a matter of life and death, they say.
SHAPIRO: Personally, the stakes are very high for individuals, but geopolitically, the stakes are also very high. This has been called the most progressive election for Turkish democracy in a century. Explain why.
TANIS: Well, many here see it as a referendum vote between two different Turkeys. We already know what Erdogan’s Turkey looks like after two decades in power. He changed the parliamentary system to a presidential system five years ago. He gave himself sweeping powers. He is known for his religious nationalist rhetoric. But critics say his one-man rule just isn’t working. Turkey’s economy is in shambles. Erdogan’s government struggled to respond to a devastating earthquake in February. And then there are serious concerns about the future of civil liberties. If Erdogan wins, how long will his third term be? His opponent, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, on the other hand, has promised to change Turkey’s governing system back to the parliament, he has also promised to end corruption, protect democratic rights. But his own party has a lot of historical baggage with many voters, and Kilicdaroglu has struggled to present himself as an alternative to Erdogan, who is seen as a much more charismatic leader.
SHAPIRO: The vote was so close two weeks ago. What has happened in the last two weeks, and is it likely to make a difference?
TANIS: Well, so there is a pocket of voters who are not happy with Erdogan or his opponent. They vote mostly as a protest for a third candidate in the first round. Now, that candidate has announced that he supports Erdogan, but that does not mean that those votes will travel with him. So that’s one thing to watch. Another thing is that the opposition is struggling a little with confidence after losing in the first round, which obviously works to Erdogan’s advantage. I met a 28-year-old man today working at a toy shop. His name is Yunus Emre. He voted two weeks ago but now he feels embarrassed and is not sure if he will show up this Sunday.
YUNUS EMRE: (Speaking Turkish).
TANIS: He says that despite the many issues under Erdogan, if he is still able to be liked, there is something very wrong with the opposition, or there is simply no hope for change at all He says he knows many people around his age who feel the same. And analysts say that these votes are crucial in deciding what happened to this country.
SHAPIRO: Turkey is so important to the US. What could be at stake for American interests in this election?
TANIS: Well, one big thing is President Erdogan’s personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two have become closer over the past years, and that has translated into policy. Turkey has not joined Western sanctions against Russia. He has also delayed the ratification of Sweden’s membership in NATO. And so that is one big question that the Western allies are looking at – how will the election come up.
SHAPIRO: That’s NPR’s Fatma Tanis in Istanbul. Thanks for your coverage.
TANIS: Thank you.
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