One of the most prominent questions in Turkish public debates about the upcoming 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey is undoubtedly who will be the presidential candidates. Even though President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has not yet announced his candidacy, his name is almost certain for his People’s Alliance.
When it comes to the opposition, it is a perpetual strategy puzzle. As of January 7, the opposition, whether in an alliance or not, had been expected to agree upon a joint candidate to run against Erdoğan, to strengthen their chances of winning the presidency with sweeping authorities at the first round of elections.
HDP to nominate its own candidate
Kurdish-issue focused Democratic People’s Party (HDP) co-leader Pervin Buldan has changed the calculations with her announcement on January 7, stating that the HDP, a leading party of the Labor and Freedom Alliance, will nominate its own candidate in the presidential elections, raising the number of candidates to compete from two to three.
“We do not have any partnership neither with the People’s Alliance nor the Nation Alliance,” Buldan said, addressing both Erdoğan’s AKP-MHP alliance and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and İYİ Party’s alliance, which later included four other opposition parties to form an election collaboration that is called “the table of six.”
“However, we can sit down and talk about our principles when the time comes. We can negotiate, when the time comes. We can form a dialogue when the time comes,” she added. “But the HDP’s current decision is to go to the elections with its own candidate.”
Electing a president in the first round will be difficult
This development also means that it will be even more difficult for the 2023 presidential election to be finalised in the first round. According to the polls, neither Erdoğan, who is expected to be the candidate of the People’s Alliance, nor the prospective candidate of the table of six are likely to receive more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round.
At first glance, it may appear that HDP’s tactic is to negotiate with candidates who will make it to the second round.
But the HDP’s announcement that it will choose its own candidate opens the door to talks with both the AKP-MHP coalition and the Table of Six coalition before the elections.
The fact that Buldan says “our current decision” also shows their intention to open the door to political bargaining early.
How will it affect other parties?
People’s Alliance circles have been spreading propaganda against the Table of Six, especially the CHP, saying that the HDP is the “seventh member of the opposition alliance.” The HDP’s decision could make that argument mostly invalid.
On the other hand, with the nomination, the possibility of at least some HDP voters supporting the candidate of the People’s Alliance in the first round is largely eliminated. It is clear that the HDP’s having its own candidate will have a rallying effect on its own base.
The AKP-MHP balances within the People’s Alliance may also be affected by Buldan’s statement. It is a matter of curiosity, for example, whether the AKP will go to the HDP’s door to ask for a vote on the constitutional amendment on the headscarf.
Well, if Erdogan wants to hold the election earlier than June 18, and if he wants to do so with 360 votes in the Parliament, will the AKP go to the HDP’s door on this issue too?
Erdoğan’s ally, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, wants the HDP to be closed by the Constitutional Court; at one point, he even talked about the closure of the Constitutional Court if it did not close the HDP.
If the AKP does not want to negotiate with the HDP for early elections in case the HDP nominates its own candidate, the only option left is for the President to dissolve the parliament and lead the country to the elections.
“The Table” to name the candidate in February
The table of six announced its game plan at the January 5 meeting. What remains is the name of the candidate. This issue is likely to be discussed at the meeting to be hosted by IYI Party leader Meral Akşener on January 26. The outcome, however, is not expected to be finalised on January 30, when they announced their “Roadmap for Transition to a Strengthened Parliamentary System” and the “Common Principles Text,” which will replace the governmental programme if the opposition wins the election.
In any case, we can expect the Table of Six to announce its presidential candidate in February.
Following the political legal proceedings imposed against İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, the favor seems to have shifted to CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. But nothing is certain.
Even the pressure that HDP’s Meral Danış Beştaş wanted to exert on the table by saying, “We will not accept Mansur Yavaş,” may have been invalidated by Buldan’s statement.
It would be more logical to expect the table of six to start discussing the candidate in detail after January 30, that is, when there are no more issues left to discuss.
In any case, Erdogan would have set the election date around that time. The curtain then opens.
That’s when we’ll see the actors staying on stage when the curtain opens.