Young Turks pessimistic ahead of runoff election – prefer to emigrate than live under Erdogan
1:52 p.m.: “If Erdogan wins, I’ll leave Turkey,” says Ezgi. Before the runoff election on Sunday, the 25-year-old had “lost all hope” that the opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu could still replace President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after 20 years in power. Like this Istanbul native, many young Turks no longer see any prospects for themselves in their home country under the conservative Islamic leadership.
“I love my country deeply, but I don’t want to end up like Iranian women,” says Ezgi, who works in marketing and prefers not to give her last name. Together with her older sister, she plans to move to the Netherlands if Erdogan is re-elected.
Hasibe Kayaroglu had hoped the election would bring about change in her home country. Before the first round in mid-May, the social democrat Kilicdaroglu was the favorite. In fact, 49.5 percent of the voters voted for Erdogan, his challenger got 44.9 percent of the votes – a disappointment for many younger Turks.
“Every night my roommate and I only talk about how we can get out of here,” says Kayaroglu, an engineering student from Ankara. “The young people have no more hope.”
Other younger Turks were just as pessimistic in an interview with the AFP news agency shortly before the runoff election on Sunday. They hold Erdogan responsible for the desolate economic situation in the country and accuse him of restricting their freedoms.
“We live in a beautiful country, but it is not properly governed and it is getting worse and worse. That’s why many young people go abroad,” says Emre Yörük. His older brother urges him to emigrate – as tens of thousands of young Turks do every year.
In a survey by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation published in early 2022, 72.9 percent of Turks between the ages of 18 and 25 said they would move abroad if given the opportunity. “The proportion is high even among young people who support the AKP or the MHP,” says Demet Lüküslü, youth sociologist at Yeditepe University in Istanbul. The AKP is Erdogan’s party, and the ultra-nationalist MHP is its coalition partner. “Young people complain about the economic situation, but also about a social climate in which they feel uncomfortable,” says Lüküslü.
The emigration of young, often well-educated Turks was not an issue in the election campaign. In the last few days before the decision, the campaign revolves around the question of whether the 3.7 million refugees in Turkey should be sent back to their countries of origin.
In the fall, Erdogan spoke disparagingly of the “despicable whims” of some young people. “We look with pity on those who knock on other countries’ doors just to get a nicer car or a better phone,” he said.
“Come back, young people. This country needs you,” Kilicdaroglu tweeted in early May, responding to a video by graduates of Istanbul’s renowned Bogazici University. They had said they would return if Kilicdaroglu asked them to.
Ömer Altan is one of the graduates. He is still hoping for a victory for the opposition candidate. “He’ll assert himself with all his might,” says Altan, who is doing a master’s degree in electrical engineering in Denmark.
“More and more young and fewer young people are thinking about going abroad,” he says, lamenting the “inequality and corruption” in Turkey. The 25-year-old still wants to return to his homeland, regardless of the outcome of the runoff: “If Erdogan wins, it’s even more important to do good.”
Pro-Kurdish HDP calls runoff to vote against Erdogan
Friday, May 26, 6:32 a.m.: Before the run-off election for the Turkish presidency, the pro-Kurdish opposition party HDP called on its voters to vote against Erdogan. “Erdogan is never an option for us,” party leader Pervin Buldan said in Ankara on Thursday. Even before the first round, the party called for support for opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu. The votes of the HDP voters are considered significant for the CHP politician, who is going into the race on May 28 against the incumbent and second-round favorite Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Kilicdaroglu ended up around 4.5 percentage points behind Erdogan in the first round of the election on May 14 and then drew closer to the ultra-right Zafer party. Observers fear that the support of the HDP could cost him. The Zafer party and its leader Ümit Özdag are considered opponents of the HDP and accuse it of having ties to the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK. A closure procedure is underway against the HDP, which critics describe as politically motivated.
The HDP also criticized an agreement between Kilicdaroglu and Özdag on Wednesday. It is about the removal of political offices in connection with terrorist investigations. The HDP has lost 48 of its congregations to terrorism investigations into the office holders since the last local elections. Government officials were installed in their place. Critics see this as political repression by the AKP government against the pro-Kurdish party. The HDP and so far also Kilicdaroglu’s CHP had demanded that the local parliament decide on the replacement. In the agreement with Özdag, Kilicdaroglu has now refrained from doing so. According to the agreement, they want to continue deploying government representatives if terrorist connections are proven.
Kilicdaroglu sues Erdogan before runoff over fake video
Thursday, May 25, 8:14 p.m.: Three days before the run-off election in Turkey, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu sued President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for 50,000 dollars (around 46,000 euros) for broadcasting a fake election campaign video. “We have filed a lawsuit to seek accountability for the fake video,” Kilicdaroglu’s attorney Celal Celik said on Thursday.
The video links the opposition to Kurdish fighters. It shows a commander of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) apparently calling for support for the opposition. The PKK is classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey and its western allies.
Erdogan has repeatedly shown the video at rallies, but this week conceded that it was a montage – and not an official campaign video produced by the opposition, as he had hinted at his rallies.
According to Kilicdaroglu, he intends to donate the $50,000 to an organization that educates the children of killed Turkish soldiers.
Since none of the candidates achieved an absolute majority in the first round of the presidential election on May 14, there will be a runoff between Kilicdaroglu and Erdogan on Sunday. Erdogan just missed the majority in the first round – Kilicdaroglu was around five percentage points behind him.
Turkish presidential election ends abroad
9:48 p.m.: Voting for the Turkish presidential election abroad has ended. In Germany, around 746,000 of the approximately 1.5 million eligible voters voted between Sunday and Wednesday evening, according to preliminary figures from the Turkish electoral authority. In the first round, around 725,000 people cast their votes in Germany.
Eligible voters were able to cast their votes in polling stations in the runoff between incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan and opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu until Wednesday evening.
According to preliminary figures, a total of 1.74 million people cast their votes abroad shortly before the polling stations closed. That was more than the official numbers voted for in the first round (1.67 million). There had been long queues at polling stations like in Berlin in the past few days.
In the first round on May 14, Erdogan was clearly ahead abroad (57.7 percent). Overall, he came to 49.52 percent, his challenger Kilicdaroglu to 44.88 percent. On Wednesday, Erdogan was satisfied with the result abroad in the first round and the participation so far in the second. He continued to call on his supporters to go to the polls.
Turkey will vote on May 28th. Only then will the results from abroad be published.
Voting at border crossings, ports and airports in Turkey also runs until May 28th.
Türkiye–Choice: A similar number of voters as in the first ballot
Wednesday, May 24, 2:52 p.m.: A similar number of Turks living in Lower Saxony, Bremen and Saxony-Anhalt took part in the run-off election for the Turkish presidency as in the first ballot. A spokesman for the responsible Turkish consulate general in Hanover said on Wednesday, the last day of voting abroad. More than 100,000 voters live in the three federal states. You can choose between the incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the challenger.
People could cast their votes at the Hanover Fair, among other places. Most voters came at the weekend. Voting is open until 10 p.m. on Wednesday.
In the first ballot, incumbent Erdogan received 65 percent of the votes from voters in Germany – significantly more than in Turkey, where he received less than 50 percent. Around 1.5 million people are eligible to vote nationwide.