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Turkey’s Last Electoral Rite of Passage for a Post-Stress Democracy

Turkey’s presidential election in August 2014 introduced the direct election of the president, ushering in a new era of Turkish democracy. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s election to the Turkish presidency signals the legitimization of the AK Party’s democratic reforms over the previous twelve years. Turkish citizens’ widespread participation in the election indicates a non-partisan acceptance of Turkey’s democratic system, and its departure from the bureaucratic and military influence under the Kemalist system. Even the opposition parties have recognized this shift, adapting their political agendas and election strategies to appeal to the center. These developments have implications for the political future of Turkey, the Middle East, and the international community.

Turkey s Last Electoral Rite of Passage for a Post-Stress
Electoral officers checking the signet at a polling station. AA / Bilgin S. Şaşmaz
 

On August 10, 2014, for the first time, Turkish citizens went to ballot box to elect the President of Turkey. In this historic election, there were three candidates—Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, and Selahattin Demirtaş. Although all three candidates exhibited distinct political views, each presented an unprecedented centrist and consensus-seeking stance. This presidential election of 2014 contrasted with the 2007 election of President Abdullah Gül, who was elected by a majority vote in Parliament, as is the practice under the Turkish constitution. In that election, positions toward the Turkish presidency were highly polarized.

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