The DispatchThe Dispatch

Erdoğan faces an electoral abyss

By Charlotte Lawson

13 Apr 2023 · 7 min read

The Dispatch looks ahead to Turkey’s elections next month. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan faces his biggest political challenge in 20 years: A soft-spoken, former bureaucrat who currently leads in the polls.

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ISTANBUL—Millions of young Turkish voters heading to the polls next month will face a momentous question: Should they fire the only national leader they’ve ever known? President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is staring down his biggest political challenge in 20 years, and his opponents quietly worry that if they don’t prevail in the upcoming election, the window of opportunity will close for good.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu—a soft-spoken, 74-year-old former bureaucrat—at first glance seems like an unlikely political revolutionary, but he currently leads the polls, even if by a razor-thin margin. Backed by a six-party alliance, the longtime head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) hopes to restore Turkey’s parliamentary system and reverse Erdoğan’s effective one-man rule. It’s a tall order, even with Erdoğan facing myriad domestic crises and a reinvigorated opposition.

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