Strategic affairs expert
There are only 10 days to go to the Turkish presidential elections. In general, the incumbent, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is favored to win due to the inherent advantages enjoyed by sitting presidents such as having greater access to financial resources and media exposure as well as a more established public profile.
However, sitting presidents may suffer defeat if they ever commit a grave mistake that is deemed unforgivable by the electorate, as evidenced by Donald Trump’s and Jair Bolsonaro’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to their downfall.
Another potential reason for losing the presidency is having an unpersuasive election campaign or promoting new policies that fail to resonate with voters. For Erdogan, the first possibility is not a concern as no egregious mistake has been made.
Despite Türkiye’s ongoing economic crisis, Erdogan does not blame himself for it and instead attributes it to external factors such as the war in Ukraine. Thus, the quality of his election campaign and the voters’ response to it will be of more consequence.
Meanwhile, Erdogan’s challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu initially led in the polls due to support from six major Turkish parties. However, Erdogan countered with a robust campaign that showcased important national projects and narrowed the gap between himself and his main rival.
However, what raised doubts about Erdogan’s abilities was his health condition in a TV show, an unfortunate moment that was compounded by two other events that have favored his rival in the last few days. The waning popularity of the third candidate, Muharrem Ince, took a toll on his votes in favor of Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Additionally, the support of the People’s Democratic Party, popular among Kurdish youth, adds to Kilicdaroglu’s momentum.
So, it seems that Erdogan’s rival has had a good week, and it remains to be seen whether Erdogan can make a stronger comeback in the remaining 10 days. Whichever candidate gets elected does not make a significant difference for Iran. Erdogan’s election has both opportunities and threats in store for Iran as he has shown a more independent approach toward the West, helped Iran circumvent sanctions, and maintained political stability in Türkiye. However, he has taken measures involving the neighboring countries of Iraq and the Republic of Azerbaijan that are not acceptable to Tehran.
On the other hand, although Kilicdaroglu and his supporting coalition are pro-Western, they are not anti-Iranian, and there are nationalist currents in both competing coalitions. However, the pro-Kilicdaroglu front is a tense coalition, and it is unclear what the situation in Türkiye will be in case of their victory. Ultimately, the competition between both candidates is very tight, and it is impossible to say with certainty the victory of which one will benefit or harm Iran.