Neck and neck race in Turkey between Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu
Istanbul – With Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections less than six weeks away on May 14, public opinion polls are showing a tight contest between the two leading candidates President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
Over the weekend one of Turkey’s most respected polling companies, MetroPoll, revealed that its March research on voter attitudes showed a slim 2.6% lead for Kilicdaroglu, who heads the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and is a candidate for the Nation Alliance.
As a result of MetroPoll’s research since the beginning of the year the gap was closed in Kill Daraoglu. Support for Erdogan fell from 45.9% in January to 42% in March – a period when Turkey was hit by devastating earthquakes, prompting criticism of the government’s response – and those supporting Kilicdaroglu from 43% to 44.6%.
However, additional data reveals a more nuanced picture in the race between the two options.
Asked whether Kildare would win on May 14, which could go to a landslide two weeks later if no candidate gets more than half the votes, 43% said he would and almost 50% said would not.
However, the number of people expecting a victory in Daraglu is increasing, up from almost 32% in December, when 60% said he would not win. “In three months, the gap has closed significantly,” MetroPoll director Ozer Sencar said.
The same question about Erdogan saw some 48% expecting the president to secure his third term in office and 45% saying he would lose.
When asked how likely they were to vote for Kildareglu, almost 45% responded positively and over 49% said they would not. Meanwhile, almost 44% said they would support Erdogan and 52% refused to support his candidacy.
Referring to Kilicdaroglu’s 2.6% lead, Sencar said the data showed “the fate of the election will be Muharrem Ince and the undecided.” Ince is one of the four presidential candidates. He stood against Erdogan for the CHP-led coalition in the 2018 election, where he was defeated in the first round.
Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey Research Program at the Washington Institute, said that Ince and the other candidate, Sinan Ogan, could drain votes from Kilicdaroglu, “divide the opposition on May 14 and take the race to a runoff on May 28.”
Other polls showed higher levels of support for Kildaraoglu. TAG Research showed last week that the CHP leader had almost 51.8% while Erdogan polled 42.6%. The other candidates, Ince and Ogan, got 3.2% and 2.5%, respectively.
In the partisan world of Turkish polls, however, some are predicting an Erdogan victory. A survey conducted by Optimar Research in March showed that Erdogan was leading at 47.4% and Kilicdaroglu followed at 45.3%.
Among groups of voters, research shows that women and young people favor the opposition.
Research published by the Social Democracy Institute on Thursday on women’s voting intentions in the parliamentary election, which will be held alongside the presidential vote, showed a shift from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) to the CHP.
38% of respondents said they cast their ballots for the AKP in the 2018 parliamentary election but only 27% said they would vote for the ruling party in an immediate election. While 28% said they supported the CHP in 2018, that figure rose by two percentage points in the upcoming vote.
Another key demographic is young voters. Six million people will vote for the first time next month, a group that has only known Erdogan’s 20-year rule. About 13 million voters under the age of 25 will participate.
According to Erdal Akaltun, president of Bupar Research and Consultancy, eight out of 10 young people will vote for candidates from outside the AKP-led People’s Alliance.
“The possibility of changing power in the current order excites the youth,” said Akaltun, citing a recent survey by his firm.
Edgar Sar, co-founder of the IstanPol Institute, said the government’s authoritarian approach had an impact on most young voters.
“Generation Z was 15 years old during the Gezi Park period in 2013,” he said, referring to anti-government protests across the country a decade ago. “From that age, they saw the period when the AKP started to become authoritarian and they could not access the social opportunities that the previous generation had.”