K?l?çdaro?lu keeps a narrow lead over Erdo?an in latest polls

A compilation of 11 recently conducted surveys suggests a slim lead for Kemal Kiliçdaroglu of the Nation's Alliance with 48.2% of the vote, while the incumbent, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, trails close with 47.6%.With only one day left before Turkey's presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, a compilation of 11 recent polls shows a narrow lead for Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, the joint candidate of the Nation's Alliance, with 48.2% of the vote, while the incumbent, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is close behind with 47.6%. Sinan Ogan remains far behind with only 3.25% of the vote.

A Kiliçdaroglu win would be historic result as President Erdogan, and frontrunner of the People's Alliance, has not lost a single election since he became Istanbul's Mayor in 1994.

However, amidst economic woes, a catastrophic earthquake, and an allied opposition, the man in power for more than 20 years seems to lag behind in the polls and a landslide first-round victory, such as in the 2018 presidential elections, seems unlikely. Erdogan, at the time, won with 52.59% compared to Republican People's Party (CHP)'s candidate Muharrem Ince, who managed only to receive 30.6%.

As of yesterday (May 12), Ince was still officially in the running for the upcoming elections, even though doubtful to win. He was standing for the Homeland Party, a spin-off of the CHP.

But in a surprising move, he withdrew from the race, citing his opponents' smear campaign against him. Despite his departure from the race, the 59-year-old former physics teacher's name will still appear on the ballot papers tomorrow, and his party remains eligible for the parliamentary elections.

Why is the presidency so important?

The president holds a significant role in Turkey's politics, as after a closely contested referendum in 2017 awarded the position extensive powers, with presidential decrees basically allowing direct rule.

According to data from the CHP, since the implementation of the new system, the president has written and approved 2,229 sections of legislation between 2018-2020, while parliament has only been able to discuss 1,429 sections.

In the event that the opposition wins the 2023 election, there are intends to overhaul the current executive presidential system and revert to a parliamentary system.

Kiliçdaroglu's previous endeavors

In contrast to Erdogan, the 74-years-old Kiliçdaroglu has either lost most of his elections or failed to make substantial progress for his party, until recently.

He ran as the CHP candidate for Mayor of Istanbul in the 2009 local elections but was defeated by the incumbent's Justice and Development Party (AKP)'s nominee.

During the June 12, 2011 elections, Turkey's oldest party, headed by Kiliçdaroglu, received 26% of the vote, which was not an improvement from the 26% that polls had predicted the party would receive under the leadership of former CHP leader Deniz Baykal. In the 2015 general elections, the CHP's popularity slightly declined, with a 1.03% decrease compared to the previous elections.

After Ince's ill-fated run in 2018 for the presidency, the CHP achieved significant wins in the 2019 municipal elections, securing both Istanbul and Ankara from the AKP. This marked the first major victories for the CHP, ending the more Islamist parties' almost 25-year-long streak of wins in these cities.

A crucial contribution to these successes was the creation and restoration of the Nation Alliance, first formed to run against the 2017 constitutional referendum. This alliance has been expanded over time and now includes ex-AKP heavyweights, former economic czar Ali Babacan and former president Ahmed Davutoglu.

Kurdish endorsements

An additional boost to Kiliçdaroglu's chances is the endorsements by Kurdish parties and politicians, while not fielding a candidate of their own. With approximately 64 million eligible voters, Turkey's 15 to 20 million population with Kurdish roots is projected to be crucial in determining the outcome.

Kiliçdaroglu's increasing popularity among Kurds is noteworthy, given that the CHP has historically been one of the least popular parties in Kurdish regions due to its links to Turkish nationalism and the harsh suppression of Kurdish uprisings during its previous one-party rule.

More recently, the CHP rarely spoke out against the Kurdish-focused People's Democratic Party (HDP)'s marginalization and even voted to remove mandate holders' immunities in May 2016.

However, in Turkey's four largest Kurdish-dominated provinces, Kiliçdaroglu is reported to be leading with a considerable margin of 64%, while Erdogan trails behind with only 36%, Rawest Research indicates.

Second round

A win for Kiliçdaroglu on precisely May 14 date would be not only monumental but also somewhat ironic. Initially scheduled for June 18, 2023, the elections were rescheduled to this historic date.

May 14, 1950, marked Turkey's first multiparty elections, with Adnan Menderes becoming the country's first prime minister elected under this system. His center-right Democrat Party won in a resounding triumph against the CHP, ending its one-party rule since the republic's founding in 1923, 100 years ago.

Erdogan, who had been removed from office and briefly imprisoned as mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s, frequently draws comparisons between himself and Menderes, who was later toppled in a coup and executed.

Now on this significant day for Turkey's democracy, the CHP leader might dethrone the sitting president, who critics have frequently attributed to eroding Turkey's democracy with his 'one-man regime.'

However, while Kiliçdaroglu might lead in the polls, the question remains if it will be enough to secure the threshold of 50%, as if no candidate manages to secure the required number, a runoff election will be held on May 28.

Analyzed polls

Poll results for Turkey's presidential election:

Istanbul Ekonomi Arastirma (May 12): Kiliçdaroglu 50.5%, Erdogan 45.6%, Ogan 3.9%

Areda Survey (May 11-12): Erdogan 51.3%, Kiliçdaroglu 44.2%, Ogan 3.9%, Ince (withdrawn) 0.6%

ASAL Research (May 11-12): Erdogan 50.6%, Kiliçdaroglu 46.3%, Ogan 3.1%

GENAR Research (May 10-11): Erdogan 51.4%, Kiliçdaroglu 44.3%, Ogan 4.3%

ORC Research (May 10-11): Kiliçdaroglu 51.7%, Erdogan 44.2%, Ogan 2.8%, Ince (withdrawn) 1.3%

Optimar (May 9-11): Erdogan 50.4%, Kiliçdaroglu 44.7%, Ogan 3.4%, Ince (withdrawn) 1.5%

Avrasya (May 8-11): Kiliçdaroglu 51.3%, Erdogan 44.2%, Ogan 3.1%, Ince (withdrawn) 1.4%

Yöneylem Research (May 9-10): Kiliçdaroglu 49.5%, Erdogan 44.4%, Ogan 4.7%, Ince (withdrawn) 1.4%

MetroPOLL (May 9-10): Kiliçdaroglu 49.1%, Erdogan 46.9%, Ogan 2.7%, Ince (withdrawn) 1.3%

Argetus (May 7-10): Erdogan 50.6%, Kiliçdaroglu 46.1%, Ogan 2.1%, Ince (withdrawn) 1.2%

Remres (May 3-10): Kiliçdaroglu 52.1%, Erdogan 44.1%, Ince (withdrawn) 2.1%, Ogan 1.7%

Source: English Bianet