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Travel to Turkiye during May 14 election

Hi, we planned to travel to Turkiye in mid May and are now wondering whether we should reschedule due to possible unrest as a result of the May 14 election. We would begin and end our stay in Istanbul with trips to Cappadocia and Izmir. We would of course follow all common sense recommendations and enroll with STEP through the Dept. of State. We were in Paris during the the Yellow Jacket protests. While we never felt unsafe, our apartment building observed a 24hr lockdown and many museums and stores were closed for several days over concerns of rioting and looting. We want to make the most of this trip and would appreciate any insights.

Posted by
724 posts

There's no way to know. Unrest is always a possibility, although not a probability.

I probably would not schedule new travel in May, but I would not cancel or change existing plans either. That's just my opinion though -- take it with a grain of salt.

Definitely register with STEP and follow common sense, as you are already doing, and keep abreast of the news.

Posted by
6574 posts

We were in Paris during the the Yellow Jacket protests.

The big difference is that France is a democracy while Turkey is a semi-authoritarian state.

Posted by
1469 posts

Agree with Badger’s comment above. The current situation in Turkey has a President desperate to be re-elected but is in trouble due to his mishandling of the economy and his non-handling of the government response to the earthquake which killed more than 50,000 Turks and has left millions of Turks homeless.
Erdogan is tanking in the polls with the Opposition Coalition running more than 10 points ahead of Erdogan ‘s ruling partnership of two political parties. To make matters worse for his prospects, the MHP party— the party that gave Erdogan a majority in the parliament —is not polling at the minimal 7.5% that is now required to have any representatives in parliament. It was Erdogan himself who had the election rules recently changed to adopt the 7.5% threshold. So, in a twist of irony, that requirement may be the final nail in his own coffin. And it means it is very possible Erdogan will not even control 35% of the parliament after th election because his two-party coalition has been polling at a combined 38% in three polls taken in March.

In a free and fair election there is little doubt what would happen on May 14. But when Opposition political leaders and free journalists have been arrested, jailed, disqualified from running for President and even worse —- this already is not a free and fair election. If Erdogan sees he is destined to lose the election of May 14, will he declare a “State of Emergency” just before May 14 or soon thereafter?
And in the event the state-controlled media declares the CHP-led Opposition Coalition won the election, will Erdogan surrender power?
And if he does not, what then?

Posted by
15 posts

Thank you for the information being shared on this thread. My Best of Turkey Tour starts on May 15th; however, I arrive as a solo traveler on the afternoon of May 14th. I'm definitely keeping an eye on the news and hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

Posted by
6574 posts

Keeping an eye on the news seems like a good idea. There is of course no way to predict the future, but in my opinion there is probably a risk of violent protests, no matter the outcome of the election.

Posted by
15 posts

I am scheduled to arrive in Istanbul on May 14th. The more I read and watch the news, the more worried I am about traveling to Turkey on that day. I'm honestly not feeling comfortable landing in Turkey on the afternoon of the elections but at the same time, I do not want to lose money from the tour and flights. It is a tough decision!

Posted by
6 posts

Erika Maria717, We decided we will still go to Turkey, but we changed our itinerary. We arrive on May 12. May 13 and 14 we arranged for a tour of Istanbul with a tour guide through the travel agency Rick Steves for his tours. We will leave Istanbul on the morning of the 15 for Cappadocia and then Antalya before flying out of Istanbul on May 22. I noticed Rick Steves has not canceled his May 20 tour.
My motivation in hiring a private guide is not only to help us learn about Istanbul and also help us avoid any problems. You might want to hire a guide who knows their way around also. We will also be spending our time in the old town, not near Taksim Square. Good luck.

Posted by
15 posts

Thank you for the information. I'm actually flying in on the 14th to join a Rick Steves 13 day tour on the 15th. My flight lands around 5pm. I'm wondering if there will be protests or issues on the ride to the hotel from the airport and protests near the hotel. I've been to Egypt twice and I do understand with these situations you never know what may happen but I just do not want to place myself in a difficult/unsafe situation.

Posted by
1469 posts

Because the presidential election requires a winning candidate to reach the 50% mark, the landscape for Turkey’s May 14 national election has changed with the entry of Muharrem Ince, who now will be on the ballot as the fourth presidential candidate.
When Ince ran as the CHP’s candidate against Erdogan in 2018, he was defeated in a landslide, losing by 52% to 31%.
He is polling now between 5%-8%. With numbers like that, he cannot win the election. But he can be a spoiler by denying National Alliance leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu (CHP) of the Opposition a victory on May 14. Ince was a member of the CHP and wanted to be its presidential nominee this year but, once it was clear there would be no comeback for him, he bolted from the party and formed his own political party in 2021. When the six Opposition Parties united behind Kemal Kilicdaroglu in March, Ince made his move and entered the race.
The race now is very close with most recent polls showing neither Kemal Kilicdaroglu nor incumbent Erdogan reaching the required 50% to be elected.
Reports say a Senior CHP leader said if Ince remains in the race, the election will go to runoff on May 28.
That could mean that if there is civil unrest it could be delayed until after the runoff election on May 28.
Meanwhile, there are indications the government is doing what it can to get a vote total that favors Erdogan.

Turkish law requires that only sealed ballots can legally be counted. But in a previous election in which Erdogan won, there were thousands of unsealed ballots that were counted by election officials. Already, in many of the areas severely impacted by the earthquake, Senior local election officials who have been at their jobs for years have been replaced by the government and new officials have been installed.
Another law in Turkey is that voters are required to vote where their residence is located. In Hatay, a province of more than 1.6 million residents that was heavily damaged by the February 6 earthquake, anger grew against Erdogan’s government because of the lack of aid seen in the quake’s aftermath. Hatay voted for the CHP in 2018. Hatay’s airport runway had to be repaired after the quake. It was repaired within ten days and the airport re-opened. With the airport open, voters could fly back to their hometowns and vote on May 14.
Then, without explanation, the government closed Hatay’s airport and announced it will not reopen until May 17– three days after the election.
In southeast Turkey the earthquake displaced more than three million people. Those who are qualified to vote either have to return to their hometowns to vote or they are required to have re-registered at their new residence by March 16.
How many of these traumatized people knew where they would be living less than 40 days after the quake? The Mayor of Hatay estimates that 200,000 former residents will be unable to vote. Will those ballots be delivered to Hatay and left blank if the residents don’t show up on May 14, or will truckloads of blank unused ballots mysteriously turn up filled out so they can all be counted by the newly-installed election officials? How will anyone but the authorities know what actually happened?

The independent Istanbul newspaper BirGün has reported the Interior Ministry’s Police and Gendarmerie departments—Turkey’s internal security forces that are charged with following Presidential decrees—ordered 50,000 pepper spray canisters on
February 28. Since then, it also ordered 20,000 gas bombs and 5,000 smoke grenades on March 30. In April, 5,000 large pepper spray capsules were ordered.
There has been no disclosure by the government of any of these orders because it is not legally required.

The BirGün further reported The Gendarmerie General Command issued the unprecedented instruction for all of its paramilitary forces numbering close to 200,000 to be at their posts on May 14.