Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday banned music from his campaign stops and vowed to heal the earthquake-stricken nation’s wounds as he formally set the next election for May 14, Agence France-Presse reported.
Erdoğan signed a decree on national television that officially starts the campaign for what is widely seen as Turkey’s most consequential vote of its post-Ottoman history.
It is also shaping up to be the most difficult of the 69-year-old leader’s two-decade rule.
Voters will be given a choice between keeping Erdoğan’s Islamic-rooted party in power until 2028 or handing the reins back to the main secular party of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Erdoğan said he will run under the slogan “Turkey Now.”
But he set a somber tone to the campaign season by banning music and instructing candidates from his party to contribute to the emergency service in charge of earthquake recovery work.
“Our agenda during the election [campaign] will focus on efforts to heal the wounds of earthquake victims and to compensate for economic and social harm,” he said.
Losing in polls?
Erdoğan is a tireless campaigner and a gifted public speaker who comes alive on stage.
But he will have to dig deep to pull off a victory in an election that some of his own allies had suggested he should push back by a year.
Turkey was battling the worst economic crisis of Erdoğan’s time in power when it was hit by twin earthquakes that killed tens of thousands and left millions homeless last month.
The United Nations estimates the cost of damage alone at more than $100 billion.
His political opponents have formed the type of big-tent coalition that Erdoğan himself relied on to win more than a dozen elections over his career.
The six parties united behind secular opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu include die-hard nationalists and an Islamic party as well as more moderate voices who want to push Turkey back on a more predictable course.
Public opinion polls are notoriously unreliable in Turkey, and some show Erdoğan still holding on to a lead.
But others show him trailing his far less flamboyant opponent by more than 10 percentage points.
Analysts are now watching the movements of a pro-Kurdish party that was excluded from the anti-Erdoğan alliance because of some of the other opposition leaders’ more nationalist views.
The party is expected to have talks with Kılıçdaroğlu in the coming days.
Erdoğan enjoyed some support from Kurdish voters in the earlier stages of his career.
But the party helped an anti-Erdoğan coalition sweep to power in historic 2019 elections that saw the opposition seize power in İstanbul and Ankara for the first time since the 1990s.