Six million citizens, who will be voting for the first time, are estimated to essentially decide whether President Erdogan’s stay in power will be extended for a third decade or if something they have never known will happen–Turkey will find itself under a different leader. .
With less than 12 months to go until perhaps the most important election in the country’s modern history, a large majority of young Turks say they want change but remain somewhat wary of whether the opposition can improve the employment situation. of education and freedoms such as freedom of speech.
With 12% of voters in the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for June 2023 being young, this age group will play a key role in what is expected to be a tough battle for dominance between Erdogan and the ruling Justice Party and Development (AK), pollsters predict.
From the interviews with about 12 Turks between the ages of 18 and 23 from metropolitan Istanbul to central Anatolia, it appears that justice, immigration, merit-based jobs and transparent economic policies are the issues that concern them the most.
“I am not completely happy with my decision, but I think I will choose the non-optimal option (and support the opposition),” said 19-year-old Damla, a history student in Istanbul, who declined to give her last name.
Economic turmoil and rising inflation have increased her living expenses even though she lives with her family and does not go out with friends as often as before.
“I feel like I’m not living, I’m just trying to survive. If the AK Party loses these elections, the new government will have to continue to feel the people’s pressure on it,” he says.
The polls are changing, but they show that Erdogan will lose the election and that his party will lose its independence in parliament.
However, an informal opposition alliance has not announced a presidential candidate and failed to win over any young voters as the authoritarian Erdogan has recorded a winning streak since coming to power in 2003.
The president has moved a traditionally secular society in an Islamist direction, turned Turkey into a regional military power and used the courts to crack down on dissent.
He now faces a tough election contest largely because of his own unorthodox economic policies, including interest rate cuts that sent the pound to record lows and inflation to a record high — 78.62 percent — in June.
The so-called “Generation Z”, the young Turks who were mostly born after the turn of the new millennium, number about 13 million of the 62.4 million Turks who are expected to vote next year, according to figures from the Statistics Agency. and from polling companies.
Six million Turks will be eligible to vote for the first time.
Murat Gezici, the head of polling firm Gezici, says young voters are generally annoyed by the government, but do not have a specific ideology or fully trust the opposition.
The company’s polls show that Gen Z voters, aged 18 to 25, strongly oppose suppression of their lifestyle, freedom of expression and media: “80% of this generation will not vote for the AKP” , says Gezitsi.
Yusuf, 18, another first-time voter, says most global economies have been hit hard in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
“I think the leader of our country right now is the best and most suitable leader…I will vote for AK because he is making plans to make the people more comfortable. The economy may not be in good shape, but this is happening in all countries,” he says.
The youth unemployment rate in the country stood at 20% in April, official data show. The average in OECD countries is 10.87%.
Pollsters say the motivation of young voters is a wild card, adding to the difficulty of predicting the election outcome.
It could depend on who a group of six opposition parties, which have agreed on a common policy, chooses to stand up to Erdogan.
“Young people want change,” says Mehmer Ali Kulat, the president of MAK Consulting, whose survey found that 70 percent of 18- to 29-year-old voters support the opposition.
He says that younger voters tend to compare their economic outlook with their peers from other countries, while older voters are more interested in investing in infrastructure such as roads and hospitals.
21-year-old Elin says her living conditions have worsened because of government policies, so she will vote for the opposition. However, he is concerned that the opposition’s proposals may not effectively address the problems of current immigration policy or minority rights.
“I think a change in power will at least solve the urgent issues,” he estimated, speaking to Reuters by telephone from Ankara.
I am Derek Black, an author of World Stock Market. I have a degree in creative writing and journalism from the University of Central Florida. I have a passion for writing and informing the public. I strive to be accurate and fair in my reporting, and to provide a voice for those who may not otherwise be heard.