TURKEY: Erdogan leads but runoff likely
Turkish presidential election looks set for a runoff vote after President Tayyip Erdogan fell short of an outright majority, even though he led over his opposition rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu on Sunday.
Erdogan seeks to extend his 20-year rule of the NATO-member country.
Neither Erdogan nor Kilicdaroglu cleared the 50% threshold needed to avoid a second round, to be held on May 28.
The presidential vote will decide not only who leads Turkey but also whether it reverts to a more secular, democratic path, how it will handle its severe cost of living crisis, and manage key relations with Russia, the Middle East and the West.
Kilicdaroglu, who said he would prevail in the runoff, urged his supporters to be patient and accused Erdogan’s party of interfering with the counting and reporting of results.
Erdogan actually did better than pre-election polls had predicted, and he appeared in a confident and combative mood as he addressed his supporters.
“We are already ahead of our closest rival by 2.6 million votes. We expect this figure to increase with official results,” Erdogan said.
With almost 97% of ballot boxes counted, Erdogan led with 49.39% of votes and Kilicdaroglu had 44.92%, according to state-owned news agency Anadolu. Turkey’s High Election Board gave Erdogan 49.49% with 91.93% of ballot boxes counted.
“We know it is not exactly a celebration yet but we hope we will soon celebrate his victory. Erdogan is the best leader we had for this country and we love him,” Reuters quoted Yalcin Yildrim, 39, who owns a textile factory.
Sunday’s election appears set to hand Erdogan’s ruling alliance a majority in parliament, giving him a potential edge heading into the runoff.
Opinion polls before the election had pointed to a very tight race but gave Kilicdaroglu, who heads a six-party alliance, a slight lead. Two polls on Friday showed him above the 50% threshold.
“The next two weeks will probably be the longest two weeks in Turkey’s history and a lot will happen. I would expect a significant crash in the Istanbul stock exchange and lots of fluctuations in the currency,” said Hakan Akbas, managing director of Strategic Advisory Services, a consultancy.
“Erdogan will have an advantage in a second vote after his alliance did far better than the opposition’s alliance,” he added.
Kingmaker Sinan Ogan
A third nationalist presidential candidate, Sinan Ogan, stood at 5.3% of the vote. He could be a “kingmaker” in the runoff depending on which candidate he endorses, analysts said.
Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu will both be courting support from Ogan of the right-wing ATA Alliance after the relative newcomer’s surprisingly strong showing in Sunday’s vote, analyst Soner Cagaptay has told Al Jazeera.
“He got enough votes to be a spoiler and deny either of the candidates a 50 percent outright victory, likely forcing the election into a run-off,” said Cagaptay, who leads the Turkey Research Program at the Washington Institute in Washington, DC.
Cagaptay said both men would be trying to court Ogan, but the more conservative Erdogan probably had the upper hand.
The opposition said Erdogan’s party was delaying full results from emerging by lodging objections, while authorities were publishing results in an order that artificially boosted Erdogan’s tally.
Kilicdaroglu, in an earlier appearance, said that Erdogan’s party was “destroying the will of Turkey” by objecting to the counts of more than 1,000 ballot boxes. “You cannot prevent what will happen with objections. We will never let this become a fait accompli,” he said.
But the mood at the opposition party’s headquarters, where Kilicdaroglu expected victory, was subdued as the votes were counted. His supporters waved flags of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and beat drums.
The Putin factor
The choice of Turkey’s next president is one of the most consequential political decisions in the country’s 100-year history and will reverberate well beyond Turkey’s borders.
A victory for Erdogan, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most important allies, will likely cheer the Kremlin but unnerve the Biden administration, as well as many European and Middle Eastern leaders who had troubled relations with Erdogan.
Turkey’s longest-serving leader has turned the NATO member and Europe’s second-largest country into a global player, modernised it through megaprojects such as new bridges and airports and built an arms industry sought by foreign states.
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