Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

What happens when a Turkish president loses an election? No one knows

By Reuben Silverman

22 Apr 2023 · 8 min read

Editor's Note

FP explains why Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan's departure is hard to imagine—and why he will likely do whatever it takes to stay in power.

Turkey holds presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14. They could unseat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), who have governed for the past 20 years. In that time, Erdogan and the AKP have left a deep mark on the country—expanding the role of Islam in the traditionally secular state and growing Turkey’s influence abroad. But years of unorthodox economic policy and a deadly February earthquake have undermined confidence in the government, leading many voters to question the reputation for competent administration that has traditionally been central to the AKP’s appeal.

After two decades, Erdogan’s departure is hard to imagine. Polls suggest that he may be defeated by an opposition candidate, but there is widespread belief that he will do whatever it takes to stay in power, using his incumbency advantages to eke out a narrow victory or challenge unfavorable results.

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