"Erdogan has to go! All my neighbors vote for him, but I don't," exclaims 19-year-old Gökhan Çelik in Istanbul's working-class Kampasa district, where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan grew up and played football. First-time voters like Gökhan know no other head of state than Erdogan, and many of them are frustrated with politics. According to a survey, only 20 percent of young voters under the age of 25 want to vote for Erdogan in the presidential election in mid-May.
Student Emre Ali Ferli is also fed up with Erdogan's reign and wants to vote for the opposition. "I'm tired of getting up in the morning and immediately thinking about politics," says the 18-year-old. "With President Erdogan gone, young people can focus on their exams and speak freely." He wants to vote for Erdogan's most important challenger, the social democrat Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
5.2 million first-time voters are called to the parliamentary and presidential elections in around ten days, they make up around eight percent of all eligible voters. Kilicdaroglu wants to take advantage of young people's displeasure. "Spring will come because of you," shouted the 74-year-old from the opposition party CHP at an election rally in front of young people in Ankara. Kilicdaroglu heads an alliance of six opposition parties and, according to polls, has a good chance of defeating Erdogan in the first round of elections on May 14.
Although both are already of retirement age, 69-year-old Erdogan and 74-year-old Kilicdaroglu are trying to woo young voters with promises such as the abolition of a tax on the purchase of mobile phones or free internet access. Another presidential candidate, 58-year-old Muharrem Ince, is presenting himself to young people as a younger alternative.
The 21-year-old textile worker Firat Yurdayigit criticized the fact that President Erdogan had a third airport built in Istanbul "instead of taking care of people's problems". Firat wants to elect Ince: "But no matter who is elected, everyone is better than Erdogan," he says. His friend Bilal Büyükler tries to defend the president, but he too has to admit that he is "partly responsible" for years of economic problems with extremely high inflation and currency depreciation.
"The approval of Erdogan among young people is low," says pollster Erman Bakirci from the survey institute Konda. "First-time voters are more modern and less religious than the average voter, and over half of them are dissatisfied with their lives."
But although the unemployed Bilal is struggling with the current situation, especially with the high inflation and the admission of millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey, he will vote for Erdogan. "I can't vote for Kilicdaroglu for religious reasons. He stepped on a prayer rug with his shoes," he enthuses. This literal misstep by the leader of the secular CHP was exploited by the pro-government media and by Erdogan during the election campaign.
20-year-old Sevgi lives in Eyup, one of Istanbul's most conservative districts. However, she does not want to "mix politics and religion" in the parliamentary and presidential elections. Their main concern is the desolate economy. "Erdogan stands in the way of realizing my dreams," she says. She works to fund a design course. Her friend interrupts her and lists Erdogan's merits. But Sevgi shakes his head and, with regard to Erdogan's 20-year rule, emphasizes: "Even if he were a good president, he shouldn't stay in power for that long."