Generation Erdogan: More than 5 million young Turks to vote for the first time


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Some 5.2 million young Turks will vote for the first time in the May 14 presidential and legislative elections, and they could be key to deciding the country’s future. At around 20 years of age, they do not remember a time before President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been in power as president or prime minister for two decades. FRANCE 24 went to meet some of them.

They are called Generation Z and they have known only one leader: Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

While some are hoping for a change in leadership, others want to see Erdogan and his Islamic conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) returned to power. They face a choice on May 14 between Erdogan and three challengers: opposition alliance candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu; Muharrem Ince, who ran against Erdogan in the 2018 elections; and far-right candidate Sinan Ogan.

Erdogan once dreamed of raising a “pious generation”. But many young Turks are looking to free themselves from the shackles of religion and enjoy more civic freedoms. According to a recent poll cited by AFP, only 20 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds plan to vote for the president and his AKP party in the presidential and legislative elections on May 14.

But the incumbent also knows how to play to nationalist sentiment – and Western resentment – presenting himself as the forerunner of a Turkey that could be a global superpower, a Turkey both respected and feared.

“Among some of the youth, there is a resentment of the West that Erdogan often capitalises on: ‘Westerners despise us, they do not grant us visas’,” explains Ahmet Insel, a publisher and political scientist. “This galvanises religious identity, Sunni-Turkish identity.”

Hoping for a change

Fatma Reyyan Ince and Izot are looking for a change in leadership that would revive hopes of a more open and democratic Turkey.

Fatma Reyyan Ince, 19, Kahramanmaras in southeast Turkey

Sitting on a café terrace with a friend, Fatma Reyyan Ince takes a little break while studying for university entrance exams; the high school student hopes one day to study law at Antalya International University.

“I know whom I will vote for: Muharrem Ince (no relation). If there is a second round, Inshallah (God willing), it will be Kilicdaroglu.

My father is pro-AKP, my maternal grandmother is also. But my mother and I feel the same way. There is also a big difference between generations: We are very open-minded, unlike older people, and we think about the consequences of each decision.

It is very hard to be 20 today in Turkey. The economy is bad. We have to think about our studies. I want to stay here; it is impossible to consider leaving the country. Even if in 10 years nothing has changed, I will not go anywhere. But I dream of a free country.

I think Erdogan has been in power for so long because people trust him. He did what he promised. If people think he can turn the economy around, he has a good chance of being re-elected.

Turkey is a beautiful country. If we manage to revive the economy, we will have renewed success.“


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