Everything you need to know about Turkish elections

A man casts his ballot at a polling station in Istanbul during the mayoral election on June 23, 2019
A man casts his ballot at a polling station in Istanbul during the mayoral election on June 23, 2019 Copyright AFP
Copyright AFP
By Tuba AltunkayaReuters
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is facing his biggest test in the upcoming elections in May. Who are his rivals and what is at stake? Here is all you need to know about Turkey's upcoming elections.


Turkey will hold what is widely considered the most consequential election in recent history on 14 May.

From a faltering economy to migration policies, the issues at stake have been exacerbated by the recent earthquake which killed 50,000 and devastated towns and cities across the south and southwest of the country. 

Voters will decide whether to keep the current government headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan -- who has ruled for more than two decades -- or opt instead for a change of leadership in Ankara. 

Here's everything you need to know about Turkish politics, parties, personalities and hot topics as the country gets ready to head to the polls. 

The election timetable

There will be two elections held on 14 May where voters will choose their new president, and also 600 members of parliament.

For the presidential elections, if no candidate can secure at least 50% of the votes, a second run-off will be held on 28 May between the top two runners.

Around 61 million voters will head to the ballot box on election day and it is estimated that 3 million voters abroad will likely cast their votes in advance, between 27 April and 9 May. 

The voting on 14 May will begin at 08:00, with polls closing at 17:00 local time. 

All politicians and parties must conclude their campaigns at 18:00 the day before, then pre-election restrictions begin.

The initial results are expected to be known by 23:59 on election day. At midnight the electoral prohibitions end and the broadcasters will begin to announce unofficial initial results. 

Traditionally, the winner of the race for the presidency will declare victory in the early hours of the morning, when the majority of the ballots have been counted. 

The president-elect will address the public with a victory speech. However, the announcement of the definite results by the Supreme Election Council can take a few days or even a week.

The presidency and parliamentary elections are run on the same day every five years.

Who is running for the presidency?

On 14 May, the voter will be handed a ballot paper with four candidates, who all succeeded in securing the 100,000 signatures required for candidacy.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: the current president will be facing his toughest test during his 20-year rule. Founder and the leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Erdoğan has been leading the country since he became prime minister in 2002. 

Appointed as president by parliament in 2014, his powers were only symbolic in theory, although critics would argue that he had already established a de-facto presidential system since coming into office.

The referendum in 2017 paved the way for the presidential system and in 2018, all the powers of the government were handed over to the elected president, Erdoğan, as the parliamentary government was abolished. 

The 69-year-old president is criticised for monopolising power and silencing dissenting voices as well as shifting Turkey away from Ataturk's secular blueprint, which sidelined Islam. 


Kemal Kılıçdaroğluhas been the country's main opposition leader for 13 years and is widely believed to have a high chance of winning the race for the first time. 

The leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP), Kılıçdaroğlu is the candidate of the Nation Alliance, also known as the 'Table of Six'.

Following a series of major defeats against Erdoğan and AKP, the retaking of power in stronghold municipalities at the local elections in 2019 by CHP was the first signal of Erdoğan's loss of support. 

The country's worsening economic situation appears to be strengthening Kılıçdaroğlu's hand.

Some call the 74-year-old retired civil servant a Turkish 'Ghandi', others criticise him for lacking political charisma and for obstructing politicians from his own party who are seen as having a high chance of winning the election.


Muharrem Ince, the leader of the right-wing, nationalist Homeland Party, knows the presidential race all too well. He will be running against Erdoğan for the second time following the last presidential elections in 2018. 

İnce was a member of the CHP and the candidate of the main opposition at the time. However, his disappearance on the election night was perceived as a betrayal and his 'off the record' Whatsapp message, “the man won”, accepting the defeat was the last straw that broke the camel's back for his supporters. 

He formed Homeland Party (MP) following his resignation from CHP in 2021.

Despite calls for withdrawal from the opposition wing, İnce is confident that he will make it to the second round. The 58-year-old candidate is criticised for splitting the votes and playing into Erdoğan's hands. 

Sinan Oğan, nominated by the Ancestral Alliance, was a member of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).


He was dismissed from the party in 2017 for the second time, following his return after winning the lawsuit against his expulsion in 2015. 

Now an independent politician, the 55-year-old is less well-known among the public than the other candidates. Oğan served as a member of parliament between 2011 and 2015.


Perhaps the most complicated part of the race is the parliamentary elections. Here voters will have a long ballot paper with a list of 32 political parties. 

Turkey is divided into 87 multi-member constituencies which elect a certain number of representatives depending on the size of the population of each constituency. 

In total, 600 MPs are elected. 


The complication doesn't end here. 

Some cities are traditional strongholds of a particular party regardless of who the candidates are. So, to increase the chance of winning a seat, some parties include candidates from other parties in their electoral lists. 

For a party to be represented in parliament, it must exceed the threshold of 7%.

Any party unable to obtain enough votes can still join the parliament if it is a member of an alliance that reaches the 7% threshold.


People's Alliance is currently formed of four parties: the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Great Unity Party (BBP) and New Welfare Party (YRP).


The main opposition bloc's Nation Alliance, on the other hand, is made up of six parties: Republican People's Party (CHP), Good Party (İYİ), Felicity Party (SP), Future Party (GP), Democrat Party (DP) and Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA).

CHP/Anadolu Ajansı
Leaders of six parties of the Nation AllianceCHP/Anadolu Ajansı

Labour and Freedom Alliance is in theory formed of two parties Green Left Party (YSP) and Workers' Party of Turkey (TİP). However, the party list of YSP consists of candidates from four different parties. 

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) which came third in the last elections and currently facing a possible closure, will be participating under Green Left Party (YSP). 

Union of Socialist Forces brings together Left Party (SOL), Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) and the Communist Movement of Turkey (TKH).

 Victory Party (ZP) and Justice Party (AP) runs in the election under the Ancestral Alliance.


Once all the votes have been counted, the D’Hondt method will be used to determine the new MPs. The method aims to allocate seats to parties approximately in proportion to the number of votes received.

The votes cast abroad will be added proportionally to the votes received by the parties across the country.

What are they promising?

Unless there is a big surprise, it is almost certain that either Erdoğan or Kiılıçdaroğlu will reside at the presidential palace for the next term. 

And if the pattern continues from previous elections, the majority of the seats will be occupied by the three alliances: the Nation, People's, and Labour and Freedom Alliance.

Erdoğan has been basing its campaign on the "Century of Turkey" vision and is expected to introduce his 23-point manifesto on 11 April. 


He will be showcasing the projects AKP has realised for the last 20 years and new plans for the reconstruction of the disaster zone are expected to come to the fore. 

At an event last October, the current leader already mentioned that his main goal is to change the constitution, saying amendments made so far weren't enough.

Mustafa Kamacı/AA
Recep Tayyip ErdoğanMustafa Kamacı/AA

The controversial topic of his speech was about the institution of the family. "While the unity between woman and man based on legitimacy is scorned; perversion, immorality, and crooked relationships are being encouraged intentionally," he said. 

On the other hand, the main opposition (Nation Alliance) is pledging to reverse many of Erdoğan's signature policies and has listed its election vows under nine main headings: highlighting justice, anti-corruption, and education as some of the top priorities. 

The opposition wants to dismantle Erdoğan's executive presidency in favour of the previous parliamentary system. 


The most striking of its promises are about economic and migration policies. 

The alliance is promising to reduce inflation to single figures in two years and increase the national income per capita fivefold. 

They also have been pledging to send two million Syrians back to their country within two years, on a voluntary basis.

@kilicdarogluk / Twitter
Kilicdaroglu video@kilicdarogluk / Twitter

Sharing live videos from his modest kitchen, Kılıçdaroğlu promises to fight corruption and vows to enhance freedom. 

If they take power, Turkey will rejoin the Istanbul Convention he says, which aims to prevent gender-based violence, protect victims of violence, and punish perpetrators, 


Also, the plans for Istanbul Canal will be abandoned, the Presidential Palace in Ankara will be opened to the public and the new address of the president will be the old palace, Çankaya Mansion.

What polls are indicating?

Election predictions point to a neck-and-neck race, unsurprisingly between Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu. They suggest a possible power change after more than two decades. However, many are sceptical of the polls and believe Erdoğan's grassroots will not betray him.

Based on the latest reports by 4 out of 5 research companies, Kılıçdaroğlu is ahead of Erdoğan by single figures. However, the numbers also suggest a second run-off.

According to the latest opinion polls conducted by 11 different companies, AKP is leading the race with over 32% of the votes, followed by the CHP projected to win around 27.6%. HDP, who will be running under Green Left Party, is in third place with around 10.7%.

The ruling AKP is losing ground against the opposition.


Looking at the overall votes of the two opposing blocs, the Nation Alliance is leading the polls with 42.2% while Erdoğan's People's Alliance is set to gain 40.6% of the votes.

What is at stake?

Without a doubt, high inflation and economic crisis top the election debates in the country. 

According to Turkish Statistical Institute (TUİK) the annual inflation was recorded at 64.27% in 2022. But independent Inflation Research Group (ENAG), claims this figure was more than double in reality, at the rate of 137.55%.

The rocketing cost of living, particularly in the housing sector, and unemployment rates are the most important issues on the voter's agenda.

The government's response and the handling of the devastating earthquakes in February will be reflected at the ballot box. 


Given that Turkey is the country with the highest number of refugees in the world, it is not surprising that voters consider migration to be another important issue. Some surveys show anti-migrant sentiment has increased as well as the number of migrants.

Erdoğan's critics say his government has muzzled dissent, eroded rights, and brought the judicial system under its sway, a charge denied by officials who say it has protected citizens in the face of unique security threats including a 2016 coup attempt. 

Thousands of civil servants and academics were purged from public institutions after this botched seizure of power, following a crackdown on media that was regarded as a policy of silencing and intimidation.

Hence civil liberties are never off the agenda.

Last but not least, the upheaval caused by the devastating earthquakes in the southeast has heightened concerns about potential irregularities during the elections.


... and on election day

Selling or consuming alcohol in public places will be forbidden. All recreation centres will have to stay shut during the hours of voting. Venues that offer restaurant and entertainment facilities can only serve food to the customers. No one, except law enforcement officers, can carry arms.

Share this articleComments

You might also like

What role might Turkish voters in Europe play in May's presidential election?

As Türkiye recovers from devastating earthquakes, we remain grateful to all our allies

Leaders of regional rivals Greece and Türkiye meet in bid to thaw relations