In a year full of momentous elections around the world, perhaps none has generated as much fascination, anticipation and trepidation among outside observers as Turkey’s presidential election this Sunday. For good reason. Domestically, regionally and internationally, there’s a lot riding on the outcome.
For the past 20 years, first as prime minister and since 2014 as president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has shaped—and repeatedly reshaped—Turkey’s domestic politics and foreign policy. But he now faces his greatest electoral challenge yet. The often-fractured political opposition has united behind the candidacy of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, while Turkey’s economic boom, long a feather in Erdogan’s cap, has flagged in recent years due to Erdogan’s meddling and mismanagement.
Perhaps most importantly, Erdogan has lost his aura of invincibility. Kilicdaroglu is surging in the polls, with a first-round victory Sunday now a distinct possibility. As a result, an electorate that had grown listless after years of democratic erosion under Erdogan seems to have been shocked out of its torpor by the unfamiliar prospect of his defeat.