Turkish voters are currently in the midst of choosing their next president, with the outcome set to have significant global implications. The incumbent, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been in power for two decades and has forged ties with both the East and the West. However, concerns over his increasingly authoritarian rule have caused friction with some allies. Erdogan’s opposition challenger, Kemal Kirikdaroglu, has campaigned on promises to restore democracy and improve human rights in Turkey.
Opinion polls ahead of the election suggested a delicate balance of votes between the two candidates, but Erdogan is expected to win. Baroness Ashton, Director of Foreign Policy for the EU, has described Turkey as “one of the battleground states,” and highlighted the importance of its position in relation to issues affecting Europe, Asia, and even global concerns such as security.
Turkey’s international alliances remain diverse, with Erdogan’s pursuit of “strategic autonomy” allowing the country to be allied with multiple states and security umbrellas. However, Turkey’s loyalties and commitments to NATO have been called into question due to issues such as its purchase of a Russian missile defense system that was deemed incompatible with the F-35 fighter program.
Both candidates have promised to bring Syrian refugees to their home country, but the topic remains a contentious issue, with many fearing they will be deported to an unsafe environment. Turkey’s position in the world may not seem important to some, but the direction taken by its next leader will have significant implications for the country’s stability and success in the coming decades.