Now living near his former home in a container city, consisting of pre-fab housing units resembling shipping containers, with his two teenage daughters, Demir said he would not vote for Erdogan despite his apologies for the response. slow government after the earthquakes and its promise to build hundreds of thousands of new homes in the hardest hit areas.

Elsewhere, Ferdi Baran, whose Hatay apartment building was reduced to rubble in seconds, said he felt “distant” from all the candidates but was veering towards Erdogan.

“I feel offended with the government because it couldn’t intervene efficiently after the earthquake,” said Beran, 40, a furniture maker who now lives with his wife Sevsem and their two children. in a tent city near his old home.

He also said he was offended by the opposition who «didn’t really do anything other than propagandize against the government.»

Sevsem Baran and Ferdi Baran sit in their tent in a tent city in Hatay, Turkey.
Sevsem Baran and Ferdi Baran sit in their tent in a tent city in Hatay province, Turkey.Neyran Elden/NBC News

But he said Erdogan and his ruling AK party could repair and rebuild quake-hit areas faster than a coalition of ruling parties.

Outside of Türkiye, the result will be followed with interest. The opposition alliance has indicated that it will seek to rebuild ties with the United States, the European Union and NATO. The Erdogan government has blocked Sweden from joining NATO, so if it loses, that veto could end.

Inside the country, Erdogan is likely to have the backing of Turkey’s Syrian population, which numbers 3.7 million, making it the world’s largest refugee community.

Once received while fleeing their country’s civil war, now in its 12th year, calls for Syrian refugees to return home have been revived amid post-earthquake housing and shelter shortages.

The two presidential hopefuls running against Erdogan have vowed to send them back. Ogan, who is backed by an anti-immigrant party, has said he would use «force if necessary», while Kilicdaroglu has said he would repatriate them voluntarily.

Erdogan has barely mentioned the issue of migration in the election campaign. But in the face of a wave of backlash against the refugees, his government has been looking for ways to resettle the Syrians.

Nasir Muhammad said he did not «want to think about what would happen» if Erdogan lost, because even though he gained Turkish citizenship six years ago, some people still considered him a Syrian refugee.

“My Turkish neighbor told me that I had to pack my bags and get ready to leave if Erdogan loses the election,” Muhammad, 51, said Thursday at the barbershop he founded in the southern city of Mersin.

Marwan al-Hassan, who opened a car dealership in Istanbul after his home and business in Hatay were destroyed by earthquakes, said he could not return to Syria «because my life and the lives of my children are in danger there.» Hassan, 45, said the regime of President Bashar al-Assad would kill him if he returned. At worst, he said, he would try to go to Europe.

While there has been “a strong nationalist and anti-immigrant wave rising across the board”, for Karabekir Akkoyunlu, professor of Middle East politics at SOAS University London, the economy in Turkey, where inflation has soared above 85 % last year, is “The biggest reason Erdogan faces potential defeat in the polls.”

«Turkey has been in an economic crisis since 2018,» he said, adding that inflation rates «have hit households across the board.»

Most of Erdogan’s base, he said, “seem convinced that his government is not to blame for the tens of thousands of lives lost. Either they accept the official argument that this was a catastrophe of biblical proportions that no government could do anything about, or they blame smaller players such as contractors, ignoring the political system that made widespread corruption and nepotism possible.”

However, he added that «the actual impact at the polls will also depend on whether earthquake survivors will be able to vote, as many of them have been displaced.»

Only 133,000 people across the country have re-registered at a new address outside their home, according to Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council. The International Organization for Migration said in March that nearly 3 million people had been displaced by the quakes.

That means many will have to travel to cast their ballots, such as businessman Ali Catal, 51, and his family, who will make the 650-mile journey from Izmir back to their former home in Hatay to vote.

“These elections are very important to us, not only to us, but to all of us who live in this country,” he said.

Neyran Elden reported from Istanbul and Ammar Cheikh Omar from Mersin.