Six candidates greenlighted to contest highest post in Turkish presidential election

Farid Hajili Profile 12 May 2018
Six candidates greenlighted to contest highest post in Turkish presidential election

The election fever is truly enveloping Turkey as presidential contenders fight to woo voters in the run-up to the snap June 24 parliamentary and presidential elections.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is sure that the People’s Alliance for the snap presidential elections is set to “stand firm against imperial powers and propel Turkey into the future”.

At an opening ceremony in the eastern Erzincan province, Binali Yildirim said the opposition party alliance against the People’s Alliance, formed by the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), is serving as “a life raft for members of FETO,” the terrorist group responsible for the 2016 failed coup.

The People's Alliance will win the June 24 presidential elections, as the AK Party’s 13th election victory, disappointing the opposition party alliance, he predicted.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call for snap elections on April 18, instead of the scheduled for November 2019, has caught the opposition by surprise and major parties struggled to select and nominate their candidates.

Turkey changed its political system to a presidential one in a referendum in April 2017 and a winner of the vote will rule the country with unprecedented powers. The political parties represented in parliament put forward their candidates directly. In April 2018, the Grand Assembly (parliament) passed a bill for early elections on June 24, cementing Turkey’s move to a presidential system. In an April 2017 referendum, Turkish voters approved the switch from a parliamentary system to a presidential one.

Incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The MHP-AK Party alliance is supporting Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 64 years old, who is seeking his second term as president. Erdogan has served as president since 2014 - Turkey's first popularly elected president, who, before that, was the prime minister from 2003 to 2014.

Erdogan is much criticized by his opponents for alleged disrespect for rules and increased pressure on the media and the opposition. Nevertheless, he remains hugely popular among his supporters who praise him for upgrading Turkey's status in the world. Erdogan promised in his election manifesto to fix the economy and give more freedoms. The start of his campaign was marked with a social media campaign, calling on him to step aside after he said he would leave if the nation ever said “enough”. His supporters responded by launching a hashtag, asking him to “carry on”.

Muharem Ince of the opposition CHP

The opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Good (IYI) Party, Felicity (Saadet) Party, and Democrat Party (DP) signed a declaration for a four-party alliance called the Nation Alliance to jointly run in the parliamentary elections.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate MP Muharem Ince has been an active member of the party for almost four decades. He was first elected to parliament in 2002. A staunch secular former physics teacher, the 54-years-old is known for his fervent speeches and his political intuition. He promised a non-partisan presidency and unity in society.

Meral Aksener of IYI Party

Nationalist politician and former deputy parliamentary speaker Meral Aksener is the presidential candidate from her newly-founded Good (IYI) Party. The opposition CHP “lent” the party 15 parliamentarians in order for it to form a parliamentary group which then secured Aksener’s candidacy.

However, she said she would collect the signatures to enter the race anyhow. She has collected about 250,000 signatures the first day. Dubbed as “Turkey's iron lady" by foreign media outlets, and she-wolf by her supporters, the 61-year-old politician is projecting a strong image with her fierce discourse. She is a veteran of Turkish politics. In 1996, she served the country’s first female interior minister.

Selahattin Demirtas of nationalist HDP

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party’s (HDP) presidential candidate is jailed former leader Selahattin Demirtas. In prison since November 2016, he is facing terrorism related charges and the only way of communicating voters is via social media through his lawyers.

Temel Karamollaoglu of Felicity Party

Temel Karamollaoglu represents Turkey’s Islamist Felicity Party (Saadat Party) in the presidential election. Temel Karamollaoglu, 77-year-old, comes from the same political Islamist background as Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He is a strong opponent of the president and often criticises the government’s policies on rights, working classes and Kurdish issues.

Dogu Perincek of Patriotic Party

Patriotic (Vatan) Party leader Dogu Perincek collected 100,000 signatures which qualified him as a presidential candidate. Dogu Perincek, born in 1941, was a prominent leftist youth leader in 1968. However, he later adopted a nationalist stance in politics. During the 1990s, he supported the Kurdish movement and met now jailed outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan twice. Now a staunch supporter of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, he is well-known for his anti-imperialistic views.