18 contenders jump into Turkey’s two-horse presidential race to unseat Erdogan
Istanbul – As Turkey’s elections gather pace, the race for president appears to be between incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who filed a formal application for his candidacy in the elections today – and opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
But outside of the two choices, 18 other contenders submitted applications to the Supreme Election Board to run for the highest office on May 14, offering a glimpse into aspects of Turkish politics not usually seen by outside observers.
Among the most famous candidates are a former Maoist revolutionary who has been a strong supporter of Erdogan in recent years; son of Turkey’s first Islamic prime minister; and a former member of Kildaraglu’s party which failed spectacularly when he stood for the presidency five years ago.
The candidates, unlike Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu who are nominated by parliamentary parties, must jump through a series of hoops to get their application approved, such as collecting 100,000 signatures of support and paying a fee of about $29,000.
Dogu Perincek is the 80-year-old leader of the Vatan Party (translated as Fatherland or Motherland). His involvement in politics dates back to the 1960s when he was part of several left-wing groups, leading to his imprisonment following a military coup in 1971.
After his release in 1975, he continued his communist path before being imprisoned again after the coup of 1980. He also spent time behind bars over the following years, all 15 years of his life.
Perincek’s political outlook seems strange to foreign observers, mixing socialism with nationalism. The party accepts opposition to the United States and the West, preferring ties with China and Russia. Thus, former “Eurasian” military commanders who are opposed to NATO joined the party.
For someone with such a colorful political career, it’s not surprising that Perincek is surrounded by controversy. The most striking reminder is a 1991 photo of him taking a flower from Turkey’s public enemy No. 1 – leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, Abdullah Ocalan – during a trip to a militant training camp in Lebanon.
Although the election was unsuccessful – Perincek received fewer votes in the 2018 poll than he originally collected to enter the race, which was 0.2% of the vote – it is said that he would have a disproportionate influence, especially in his foreign relations Russia.
The party has media holdings to push its message in the form of Ulusal TV and Aydinlik newspapers, which often follow a pro-Erdogan line.
44-year-old Fatih Erbakan is the son of one of the most influential figures in modern Turkish politics. The National Vision movement from which Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is founded was founded by Necmettin Erbakan.
He led a coalition government, including his Refah (Welfare) Party, as prime minister in the late 1990s before being forced aside by military chiefs in 1997 in what has come to be known as the “post-modern” coup. Erbakan Sr. is often mentioned. as a mentor to Erdogan.
Fatih founded the New Interest Party in 2018 to continue promoting his father’s Islamic line. The party did not take part in any countrywide elections but last year they fielded a candidate in the mayoral race of small towns, only to defeat the AKP runner-up.
Its leader drew publicity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pushing for an anti-vaccination policy, Fatih claimed that vaccines could result in children being “half-human, half-monkey” or “creatures with three ears and five eyes”.
The New Interest Party was one of several small parties that Erdogan courted to join the People’s Alliance. Fatih, however, dismissed such advances and announced his own candidacy on Monday.
On Tuesday’s deadline for presidential candidate applications, the electoral authority said Fatih’s claim was invalid due to missing documents, a claim denied by his party.
Another familiar face running for office is Muharrem Ince, who represented the Republican People’s Party (CHP) in Kilicdaroglu in the 2018 presidential race. He split from the CHP two years ago to form the Memleket (Homeland) Party, which which he says embodies the Kemalist principles that the CHP ignores in its attempt to appeal to a wider base.
After filing his candidacy application on Monday, Ince, a 58-year-old former physics teacher, claimed he had 30% support among voters and said he would win the second round of the election – which will be held in two weeks. after the first round. if no candidate receives more than half the vote — with 60% of the ballots.
Such bombast enthusiasm, however, may not sit well with those who remember election night in 2018.
As a result of a pledge campaign Ince promised to protect the ballot boxes from tampering until the early hours if necessary. But when Erdogan won completely in the first round, polling 52.6% to 30.6% Ince, he disappeared from public view, acknowledging that he had lost a journalist through WhatsApp. His disappearance even led to rumors that he was held against his will.