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Türkiye Presidential Elections 2023:: No quake can hit political will in democratic states

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By Amjad Mehmood

ISLAMABAD— On February 6, 2023, a devastating earthquake of 7.8 magnitude jolted the southern and central parts of Türkiye. Earlier quakes of similar magnitudes in 1668 at North Anatolia and in 1939 at Erzincan in Türkiye have shocked the country at mass scale. Over 50 thousand people have lost their lives in the recent deadliest quake and about 1.5 million people were left homeless. Overall 350,000 km2 area was dented with an estimated hit of 16% of the total population.  The United Nations development experts have estimated an overall US$104 billion financial loss to Türkiye.

Despite the huge financial loss, damaged infrastructure, disrupted communication systems, medical emergencies, and emotionally devastated nation, Türkiye is ready to undergo the presidential election 2023 announced earlier to be held in the month of May in two rounds. The first round’s voting is scheduled today (May,14) while the second round is scheduled on May 28. The last general elections took place in 2018 in Türkiye. Through a constitutional referendum in 2017, Türkiye made the transition from a parliamentary system to a presidential system and the office of the Prime Minister was abolished in July 2018. A candidate running for the president’s slot is required to obtain an absolute majority or more than 50 percent of the nationwide vote and if no candidate can secure a majority; the winner is decided in a run-off between the two most voted-for candidates from the first ballot. A Turkish citizen who is at least 40 years old and has completed higher education, a bachelor’s degree in any field is eligible to run in the contest for presidency.

Turkish citizens will vote to elect 600 members of The Grand National Assembly known as the country’s parliament which represents 87 electoral districts in 81 Turkish provinces. To obtain a simple majority, a party is required to win at least 301 seats. The Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) announces the results nationally once all votes are counted per the system. YSK is the supreme authority to manage free and fair elections in the country.

President Erdogan soon after the vilest hits of this natural calamity said, “There were shortcomings, disruptions, and delays”, however; the government was “not hiding behind excuses”. Earlier, due to severe damage in the country, there were serious doubts about the ability of election officials to set up and secure accessible polling locations in the hardest-hit regions of Türkiye.

Incumbent President RecepTayyip Erdogan’s AK Party seeking another victory at the ballot box while the opposition picked Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the CHP, as its presidential candidate. Presidential elections 2023 are expected to be toughest for the President RecepTayyip Erdogan as six opposition parties have united to compete against him. President RecepTayyip Erdogan has been in power for two decades in Türkiye however, the ongoing economic crisis in the country has shriveled his popularity.

Following the democratic values, the overseas voting process has already been completed and about 1.8 million Turkish living in different parts of the world have cast their votes.  While the nation will use their democratic right of voting today to elect their future leader for the following term.

In contrast, one can review the status of democratic values in Pakistan as the nation is witnessing a melodrama on elections in two of the dissolved provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). The Election Commission announced it would hold elections in October by sharing its inability to manage the early elections. The PDM coalition government endorsed the idea while PTI wants early elections as per a legitimate timeframe of 90 days after the dissolution of assemblies. The Election Commission, government, opposition, and the judiciary are key stakeholders and everyone has their own definition of relevant rules. In the name of democracy, the political parties and judiciary are setting ever worse examples and causing political chaos, social unrest, and economic turmoil.

Democracy has unique values where people are important to decide the fate of the country and democratic states ensure that people’s rights remain intact. All state organs provide unconditional support like in quake-hit Türkiye, the government and state institutions are ensuring their legitimate responsibilities. The condition is altogether different in Pakistan, and democracy itself ‘seeks’ justice from the democratic and legal forces.

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