Could Erdogan actually be voted out in Turkey?

Turkey’s next round of elections is coming up in just over a week, on June 24th. Considering that the Turks are currently living under a barely disguised dictatorship in the form of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one might imagine that the elections will be little more than a formality. But in an unusual bit of media digging, Bloomberg commissioned a poll of Turkish voters to evaluate the chances of both Erdogan and his AKP Party. The conclusion? Erdogan is holding a lead, but it’s not as big as you might imagine and his nearest challenger could be within the margin of error for an upset victory.

Turkey’s election this month could go down to the wire, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan facing a tougher battle to cement power or even an upset, according to a poll commissioned by Bloomberg.

Erdogan can win the presidential vote in the first round on June 24 with 50.8 percent support and get the backing of a majority in parliament, the survey by Foresight Danismanlik of 500 people on June 7-11 found. But a surprise victory for the opposition is also within the margin of error.

The key takeaway is that any array of options is possible and the only certainty is that it will be very close. Erdogan and his AK party can’t win alone, and in previous elections they got the support of religious conservatives, free-market liberals or Kurds to govern. Now success hinges on how voters identifying as nationalist cast their ballot, the poll found.

There are some issues with this poll and Bloomberg freely admits this. It was done in a single electoral district, albeit one that has tracked the results of previous elections as a sort of bellwether. Also, there were only 500 respondents sampled for an entire country. They’re listing the margin of error as plus or minus 3.5% but that might be a bit generous.

Even so, Erdogan is only showing 50.8% support. He’ll need every inch of that to secure another term in the first round of voting. His main challenger is Muharrem Ince who is only registering a little over 30% support. That makes me wonder precisely how much of a margin they’re expecting out of these numbers. Twenty points is still a very substantial lead.

The question of who will control the country’s parliament is another matter. Erdogan’s AKP Party is polling at 46% and their only significant ally in a ruling coalition is the nationalist MHP Party. They’re drawing 4.5% support, which adds up to a razor-thin margin if you’re trying to build a majority in the legislature. The other parties tend to be more independent with many being friends of the Kurds. Given Erdogan’s treatment of the Kurds, he can’t be expecting a lot of support coming from them.

But all of this ignores one other factor which should be obvious. How many people can realistically be expected to show up and publicly oppose Erdogan? His critics have a nasty tendency to suddenly wind up in prison or simply disappear. Walking around with a big “I’m Voting For Ince” button on your shirt might not be conducive to long-term health. It would be a hopeful sign for Turkey’s return to normality and their previous democratic leanings if Erdogan could somehow be peacefully removed from office by his own people next Sunday. But I remain skeptical that the election will be either free or fair enough for such a decision to be announced. And even if Erdogan lost, there’s no guarantee that he would honor the results and step down anyway.

And meanwhile, he’s still got American Pastor Andrew Brunson locked up in a prison cell and the White House is unable to do anything about it. That’s just a small but important reminder for you, Mr. President.