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Turkey’s first-time voters rally around opposition in crucial polls

Many of the five million first-time voters, who have never seen a Turkey without President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 20 years of rule, express hope for a change in the crucial twin polls on May 14.
Turkey youth

Izmir, TURKEY — “10 GB of free internet per month, that’s rich,” says Kaan Erdinc, a 19-year-old first-time voter in the coastal town of Izmir, mocking incumbent president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s promise to university students. “This government has already blocked half of the sites I’d want to use.”

Erdogan is holding a large meeting half a mile away, but Erdinc opts instead to sit with his friends at a sidewalk cafe. Like many of the young people interviewed, he talks to Al-Monitor only under a pseudonym. The first-year law student fears speaking frankly to foreign media may get him in trouble with his university, whose rector he describes as a “die-hard Erdogan supporter” and accuses of “chasing away all the good professors” because they oppose the government.

“Why would I want to hear him speak? I have been listening to Erdogan all my life and look where we are — neither my passport nor my diploma would take me anywhere,” he tells Al-Monitor ahead of the crucial election on May 14. Polls indicate a neck-and-neck race, with opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu appearing to have a slight edge in the second round, scheduled for May 28. Bekir Agirdir, the director of the KONDA polling company and known for his cautious estimates, places Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), two to five points ahead of Erdogan.

Tall and athletic, Erdinc is one of the five million very diverse young voters who will go to the polls for the first time, according to the Turkish Institute of Statistics. Pollsters’ opinions on their choice varies, though many say it leans to the opposition. However, most agree that the young voters are the largest group in undecided votes.

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