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Turkish Election '23: Kılıçdaroğlu Versus Erdogan - A Tense Standoff Amid Global Attention

May 15, 2023Simon Moss
Image by Gerd Altmann


  • Turkey's 2023 election sees a tense face-off between incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
  • Despite Kılıçdaroğlu leading in pre-election polls per U.S. media sources, preliminary results show Erdoğan with a marginal lead (49.34% of votes), with Kılıçdaroğlu close behind (45%).
  • Erdoğan's sudden illness during a live TV interview has sparked widespread speculation and debate.

Rolling Updates

These Kudzu Narrative Intelligence briefs auto-update every few hours with fresh analysis on the election results: 

U.S. Media

European Media


  • The election is a pivotal point for Turkey and the global geopolitical dynamics.
  • Inflation, currency instability, human rights violations, and strained international relations have marked Erdogan's previous terms.
  • With Erdoğan seeking a third consecutive term amidst controversy and Kılıçdaroğlu's Republican People's Party showing interest in stronger ties with Russia, the outcome could significantly shape Turkey's future.

Competing Narratives

  • Erdogan's Health: Erdogan's sudden illness during a live TV interview, resulting in the suspension of his campaign, led to speculation about his health status. While Erdogan described his ailment as a minor inconvenience, online speculations suggest a potentially severe illness. Erdoğan supporters believe in his first-round victory despite health concerns.
  • Democratic Struggle: This election is portrayed as a battle for democracy against perceived authoritarian rule. Kılıçdaroğlu's campaign initially seemed to gain momentum from a slight pre-election lead and public desire for change.
  • Electoral Challenge: This election presents the most significant challenge Erdogan has faced since taking power in 2002. The outcome could significantly alter Turkey's political landscape.

Narrative AI Analysis

Insights from for Bias in U.S. Media

Left-center sources have dominated the media landscape, with over triple the amount of coverage than right-center outlets. The narratives surrounding the 2023 Turkish elections have also leaned toward central neutrality overall, with left-wing and right-wing sources only covering one-sixth as much as left-center outlets.

Insights from U.S. and European Media Landscape

  • Key themes highlighted include the tense political climate, the close election race, and Erdoğan's mysterious illness.
  • European media also emphasize East Mediterranean disputes and allegations of Moscow spreading fake news.
  • The narrative suggests high interest and scrutiny surrounding this election, with potential implications for Turkey's strategic regional position.

Regional Implications and Context

  • The election's outcome could reshape the geopolitical dynamics of the Mediterranean region.
  • Strained relations with the U.S. over allegations of election manipulation and Turkey's purchase of Russia's air missile defense system.
  • Potential shift in Turkey's foreign policy towards Russia underscores the high stakes of this election.

Impact on International Relations and Future Considerations

  • The result of Turkey's 2023 election could significantly impact its international relations, including its standing within NATO and its geopolitical strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean.
  • Future narratives may also delve into the integrity and transparency of the electoral process.
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