Turks will go to the polls on June 24 to decide their future president, who will govern for the next five years. Members of the parliament will be elected, too. Ahead of the elections we take a close look at the main presidential candidates.
Turkey will hold two elections: parliamentary and presidential, on June 24. Political parties that obtain at least 20 seats in the parliament can nominate their candidate. The independent candidates, on the other hand, can run in the elections if they collect at least 100,000 signatures, supporting their candidacy.
Here is a close look at both the political parties' and independent candidates:
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
AK Party and MHP alliance
Erdogan has never lost an election during his political life after he founded Justice and Development Party, known as the AK Party.
He and his governing the AK Party, won 5 general elections, 3 local elections, 3 referendums and 1 presidential election since 2002.
He has already made history by becoming the longest-serving leader in modern Turkish political history. The AK Party also became the longest governing party in Turkey.
Erdogan has made some significant changes in the Turkish constitution, which was written in the 1980s after a military coup by the army.
Sent to jail in 1997
Born in Istanbul on February 26, 1954, Erdogan stepped into politics at an early age. When he was 22, he became the head of the Istanbul youth branch of Necmettin Erbakan’s conservative National Salvation Party, MSP.
In 1984, Erdogan joined the Welfare Party, RP, the successor of MSP. MSP had been closed after the army banned conservative parties in the country after the coup in 1980. Erdogan was elected the Istanbul provincial head of the party a year later.
He quickly became popular and considered the new leader of the country’s rising centre-right politics after he was elected mayor of Istanbul in 1994.
During his tenure, he tackled some of the chronic problems plaguing Turkey’s most crowded city, such as garbage. And when he became popular, he was seen as a threat to Turkey’s secular establishment.
Until the 1990s, when Erdogan entered active politics, the Turkish army carried out three coups, overthrowing democratically elected governments, in the guise of protecting the secular state and stabilisation.
And, in 1997, he was sentenced to imprisonment for reading a poem of a well known poet, Ziya Gokalp, while addressing a crowd in the Turkish city of Siirt, "The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers."
His party won the first elections it ran in
Erdogan’s term as the mayor of Istanbul ended when he was sent to jail.
A year later, the Turkish army once again banned the Welfare Party, which used to be a coalition partner.
The country entered the 21st century with political and economic turmoil. After serving four months in prison, Erdogan was released and founded the AK Party in 2001.
The party won the very first elections it entered in 2002 with a two-thirds majority in parliament and put an end to more than a decade-long coalition governments’ rule.
His party won a landslide victory, but Erdogan hadn't been a candidate because of his imprisonment. AK Party’s co-founder Abdullah Gul became the prime minister.
On March 9, 2003 Erdogan joined the deputy renewal elections in Siirt after the legal obstacle was removed with necessary regulations. And he took over the premier's office from Gul in 2003.
A single-party majority brought stability to the political and financial arena in Turkey. That led Erdogan to win a solid majority in two more parliamentary elections in 2007 and 2011.
His party also led three consecutive local elections in 2004, 2009 and 2014.
During this period, Turkey saw an increase in the national income per capita. Long-time isolated religious people also got the freedom of being part of the bureaucracy.
These developments were seen by Erdogan's supporters as a move towards founding “the new Turkey”.
Erdogan launched a project in the 2010s to find a way to end Turkey’s decades-long conflict with the PKK, which has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people.
The PKK has been recognised as a terror organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU, and has been fighting the Turkish state since 1984.
The project began in 2013 which officials dubbed as "resolution process" widely known as "peace process" - ultimately aimed to disarm the PKK.
The PKK agreed to withdraw its fighters and its arms from Turkey in return for greater political participation for Kurds.
Within this context, the government allowed the Kurdish language to be used in the media and political campaigns, opened a new public TV channel called TRT Kurdî, restored original Kurdish names to villages, towns and cities which were seen as a taboo for nearly 30 years.
It also provided a partial amnesty for the members of the group who surrendered.
But most of the PKK militants hasn't withdrawn from Turkey and finally broke the ceasefire in July 2015 after blaming the Turkish government of failing to comply with the articles of the agreed process.
It resumed its violent protests, armed attacks and bombings. Turkish security forces responded rigorously. The government eventually declared the end of the peace process, a move welcomed by the MHP, who always supported fighting the PKK, instead of negotiations.
Erdogan to presidency
After 10 years of the premiership, Erdogan became the first directly elected president on August 10, 2014.
As Turkish presidents were required to sever all relations with political parties at that time, he left his party.
Ahmet Davutoglu, who previously served as foreign minister, was elected as head of the AK Party and the prime minister of the country.
In the 2015 elections, it lost parliamentary majority for the first time, while the HDP passed the electoral threshold for the first time in its history.
Both the AK Party and the Nationalist Movement Party, MHP, rejected any coalitions with the HDP, paving the way for the first close contact between the AK Party and MHP.
The AK Party regained a majority in November's snap elections with a landslide victory. But months later, in May 2016, Davutoglu resigned. Binali Yildirim succeeded him.
Alliance with nationalists
A coup attempt took place on July 15, 2016, killing at least 250 people.
It aimed to dislodge the democratically elected government, but was beaten by the will of the Turkish people.
The MHP provided the strongest support for the AK Party in the wake of the attempted putsch and in its fight against FETO, which stands for the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation and has orchestrated the coup attempt.
Head of the MHP, Devlet Bahceli, also agreed to a quick constitutional change suggested by the AK Party that includes a fundamental change in the Turkish political system. The new system implements an executive presidency which will come into effect with the elections on June 24.
In April 2017, Turkey held a referendum and people voted to allow party membership for presidents, who previously had to sever party ties upon entering the office.
Erdogan once again clinched victory and was re-elected as head of the AK Party on May 21, 2017.
A year later, the AK Party and the MHP passed a bill that would change the country's electoral system, enabling an alliance between political parties.
The two parties announced they founded a coalition named 'public alliance' for the 2019 elections after a short time. Soon, Bahceli pledged support for Erdogan’s presidency and called for a snap election.
The call was welcomed by the governing AK Party. Erdogan announced the parliamentary elections would be held on June 24, 2018.
Aksener served as the first female interior minister of Turkey and is known for her nationalist background.
Her opposition against MHP leader Devlet Bahceli gave her more popularity than ever before.
Last year, she founded the IYI Party. "Iyi" means "good" in Turkish, and it is also a symbol of the old Turkish tribe Kayi, which is believed to be the ancestors of the Ottoman Empire.
She founded the party after she was separated from the MHP after Bahceli started to cooperate with Erdogan. And because she could only get 5 of the MHP deputies, and one from the CHP, she couldn't initially run as a presidential candidate in the June elections.
15 CHP deputies shifted to the IYI Party so that she can run in the elections against Erdogan.
But she opposed the CHP leader's idea of a joint candidate for all the powerful opposition parties, which includes the HDP, and declared her nomination.
She declared that she would collect one hundred thousand signatures to be an independent presidential candidate, instead of being nominated by her political party. One hundred thousand signatures is a must for running as an independent in the elections.
Rise and fall
She was born on July 18, 1956, in the western Turkish city of Kocaeli.
Her parents are Balkan Muslims who migrated from Greece after the foundation of the new Turkish state in 1923.
She graduated from the history department at Istanbul University.
Later, she obtained her master's degree and PhD in history. She worked as a lecturer at several universities.
Aksener engaged in active politics in 1994 when she became a candidate for the Kocaeli mayor’s office from the right-wing True Path Party, DYP, but she lost her first battle.
One year later, she joined parliament from the same party.
She was appointed as the first female interior minister of Turkey, after DYP became a part of the coalition government in 1996, by then prime minister Necmettin Erbakan of the Welfare Party.
She was removed from her post after the Turkish military issued a memorandum blaming the Erbakan government for threatening Turkey’s secular system.
Istanbul mayor's office
She was re-elected as a member of parliament in the 1999 elections from the DYP.
In the early 2000s, when she decided to leave her party, she attended the preparation meetings of the establishment of Erdogan’s AK Party.
However, she refused to join and instead joined Bahceli’s Nationalist Movement Party, MHP, in 2001.
She became a candidate for Istanbul’s mayoral office in 2004, but she lost.
She was re-elected for the parliament in 2007, 2011 and 2015 from MHP, and she served as vice speaker of the parliament between 2007 and 2015.
She had a falling out with MHP's longtime leader Devlet Bahceli after the party lost votes in the 2015 general elections.
She called for a general assembly and announced her candidacy for the party leadership in 2016, after Bahceli started talks with Erdogan.
But the MHP rejected her call and expelled her from the party the same year.
She founded IYI Party in 2017, and her stance against Bahceli increased her popularity.
Even some of her followers called her Asena, the name of a she-wolf from Turkish mythology.
Ince was famous for his heated speeches.
He showed strong opposition against Erdogan when he was the deputy leader of his party's parliamentary group. After his popularity rose, his opposition turned to his party's leader, Kilicdaroglu.
He became the candidate for chairman of CHP twice, in 2014 and 2018 but failed both attempts.
He was born in May 1964, in Yalova. He studied physics and chemistry at Balikesir University. He worked as a teacher and school principal in the early years of his career.
He joined parliament in 2002 from the CHP and was re-elected as a member of parliament in 2007, 2011 and 2015.
He served as the CHP's deputy group leader in the parliament between 2010 and 2014.
He couldn’t become the party head, but got more votes than expected in both elections, as a sign of his rising popularity.
When the peace process started in Turkey in 2013, Demirtas was the co-chair of left-wing and Peace and Democracy Party, BDP. Later the party rebranded as HDP, the People's Democratic Party.
With the HDP, he managed to pass the 10 percent electoral threshold for the first time in history in the 2015 general elections.
Since HDP is accused of having links with the PKK, as all his party's predecessors, he got arrested in 2016 on terrorism charges, with a number of HDP deputies.
He was born in Elazig on April 10, 1973. He studied law at Ankara University.
Following his graduation, he worked as a freelance lawyer for some time.
Demirtas joined parliament in 2007 from the Democratic Society Party (DTP), which later was closed by a judicial order on the accusation of terrorism links. The party was reformed as the BDP.
Along with Gulten Kisanak, he was elected as co-chair of the BDP in 2010. He held his post for four years.
In the first presidential elections in 2014 after the system changed, he became the candidate of the HDP, and ended in third place with nine percent of the national vote. That was seen as a sign of next year's general elections, that the HDP under Demirtas' leadership could pass the 10 percent threshold.
When PKK's Syrian affiliate, YPG, was fighting against Daesh in Syria's Kobani, Demirtas criticised Ankara for not helping the YPG militants. Kobani is a town on the Turkish border in the north Syria, and during the fight, tens of thousands of Kurds fled to Turkey. Ankara also let the Kurdish Peshmerge forces of northern Iraq use Turkish territory to arrive in Kobani to help the YPG in their fight against Daesh.
But in October 2014, Demirtas called his supporters to the streets "to protest the Turkish state's stance against the YPG," and violent protests broke out in over 30 Turkish cities and more than 40 people were killed.
His call drew harsh criticism from different political parties across the country.
In June 2015, his party, HDP, got more than 13 percent of the vote, passing the electoral threshold for the first time in history. But in less than two months, the peace process ended after the PKK attacked and killed two policemen. And the violent clashes resumed.
In 2016, he was arrested for his links with the PKK and held responsible for the violence started in 2014 in the country. However, he denied the charges.
Turkish parliament stripped the status of 12 HDP MPs, but not Demirtas’.
His next trial will be held on June 8, 2018.
Karamollaoglu is the head of the Felicity Party, or SP (Saadet Party) and looked for a joint candidate against Erdogan for weeks after the declaration of snap elections. When he failed to convince opposition parties to show one candidate of all, he declared himself as a presidential candidate.
He was born in Kahramanmaras in 1941. He graduated from the department of textile technology at Manchester University in 1964 and got his master's degree there. He joined the parliament in 1977 from the conservative National Salvation Party, MSP.
He was arrested during the 1980 military coup for a short time and stayed out of politics for the next few years. He was elected as mayor of Sivas in 1989 and he won one more term in 1994. He was re-elected as a member of parliament in 1995 from the Welfare Party, the successor of the MSP. He served as the party’s deputy chairman, and they worked with Erdogan in that period at the same party. He attended the Virtue Party in 1999, and he was re-elected as an MP. After the Virtue Party was banned in 2001, he was among the founders of the Felicity Party, Saadet Partisi.
He was elected as head of the party in 2016.
Perincek is known for his Maoist, communist and socialist tendencies, and he is the head Turkey's left-wing nationalist Patriotic Party, Vatan Partisi.
He was born on June 17, 1942, in Gaziantep.
He graduated from the Faculty of Law in Ankara University in 1964.
He was a founder of the communist Revolutionary Workers' and Peasants' Party of Turkey, TIIKP, in the 1970s.
After the 1971 military coup, he was put on trial and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. But he was released following an amnesty in 1974.
TIIKP reformed as the Workers’ Peasant Party of Turkey, TKIP, in 1974, and Perincek became the first president of the party.
He was arrested again in the 1980 military coup and released five years later.
In 1990, he joined the Socialist Party and became the chairman. After it was banned in 1992, he found the Workers’ Party, (IP).
The party was rebranded in 2015 as “Patriotic Party," and he has been the leader since.
Perincek was arrested in 2008 as part of the Ergenekon trials, which accused a big number of high-level military officers and some civilians known for their secularist views of planning a coup against the AK Party government.
He got a life sentence in 2013, then released in 2014 when a higher court demanded the release of most of the Ergenekon prisoners.
He is also running as an independent candidate and will try to collect one hundred thousand signatures.
The Justice Party, AP, is a descendant of the Democrat Party, which dominated Turkish politics in the 1950s and was banned after the coup in 1980. As the AP couldn’t fulfill obligations beforehand, it is not eligible to run for the general elections. Thus, the head of the party, Vecdet Oz has to collect 100,000 signatures from Turkish citizens to approve his candidacy until May 9.
Oz was born in Samsun on May 15, 1959. He studied in the faculty of medicine at Istanbul University and received his doctorate degree there. He entered active politics in 2015 when he was elected as the head of the party.