Turkish Opposition Parties – Balancing the One and Many for May 14th Election

The presidential race between Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu is among the most important in decades. [Al Jazeera]

Turkey faces significant Presidential and Legislative elections on May 14, 2023. For not the first time, the election hinges on the electorate’s view of President Erdogan. In office for twenty years now, has he pushed the limits of his appeal?

A no small factor has been the devastating earthquakes that has tested the government at all levels in Turkey. (Please take a look at the Red Crescent campaign.)

Opposition International however focuses on the challengers more so than the incumbents. Here begins a series of articles on the Opposition in Turkey. We hope for a lot of reader feedback and comment. Tell us what in our lack of knowledge we have either left out or placed too little or too much emphasis upon. Thank you in advance.

Coalition politics differs in the kind and complexity of transaction costs, the time and effort to renegotiate, ratify, and enforce an agreement, depending on whether it is an inter- or intra-party coalition. That is a group of separate parties or one big tent. It is difficult to point to an optimal way to build a coalition as it depends often concealed preferences and unknown affinities. In short, the complexity of politics from country to country make generalized statements closer to casual empiricism rather than “political science.”

Nevertheless, the more complex the coalition requirement generally the higher the transaction costs. Higher to the chance that the coalition will fall apart because few politicians- let alone the low-information voter – knows what is going on.

With that preamble let’s take a look at the contours of Turkey’s opposition party politics. The thesis of some observers is that unity for the sake of unity may turn voters away as they cannot accept some combinations of parties. The Labour and Kurdish parties stand out as controversial coalition partners. These observers suggest leaving more formal coalition talks until after the May legislative elections when strengths and weaknesses are more openly measurable.

Aljazeera Studies has been doing needed background explainers.

Two main political coalitions will face off in the Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections, scheduled for 14 May 2023. On one side is the People’s Alliance, which brings together the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). On the opposite side is the Nation Alliance, made up of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the historic Kemalist party, and the nationalist Good Party, which split from the MHP five years ago, as well as four small, generally conservative parties. Bound together only by member parties’ hostility to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Nation Alliance has coalesced around a pledge to restore a parliamentary system of government within two years if it wins.

Over the past two decades, predicting electoral outcomes in the six or seven weeks running up to the poll has been relatively simple, but Turkey’s political landscape has shifted in the past year in a way that makes assessing the fortunes of the two largest coalitions more complex.

The latest news has a pragmatic but complex division of the electoral lists for opposition parties.

“Turkey’s main opposition bloc Nation Alliance, consisting of six parties, will enter the May 14 parliamentary election under the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Good (İYİ) Party lists.

The other four parties, Felicity Party, Democrat Party, Democracy and Progress (DEVA) Party, and Future Party, will nominate their deputy candidates from the main opposition CHP list. 

The parties submitted the new protocol to the Supreme Election Council (YSK) on April 7. The deadline to submit the names of the deputy candidates to the YSK is April 9.


Speaking in front of the YSK, CHP deputy chair Muharrem Erkek said “Today we submitted an additional protocol to the electoral alliance. The CHP and İYİ Party will participate in the elections with their own logos. The other four parties will enter the elections from the CHP list.”

Competing in the parliamentary election under a joint list within an alliance is regarded as more advantageous in Turkey’s d’Hondt electoral method.

On the other hand, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) of the ruling People’s Alliance submitted their deputy candidate list for all 81 provinces to the YSK on April 6. If the MHP will not change the list until April 9, the ruling People’s Alliance, including the Justice and Development Party (AKP), will not be able to compete in the election with a joint list, meaning all parties in the alliance will enter the election with their own logos. However, this does not mean the alliance will dissolve.

Aside from People’s and Nation alliances, the Labor and Freedom Alliance consisting of several leftist parties including the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) will compete in the parliamentary election.”

One observation arises. The opposition parties have a long way to go in explaining to the Turkish voter why he or she should for them, not just out of dissatisfaction with Erdogan, but for a vision of a future Turkish polity astride a region in need of leadership. The Opposition does not have much time to make its case.