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Turkish presidential election heading toward run-off as Erdogan falls short

Erdogan said he could still win but would respect the nation’s decision if the race went to a run-off vote in two weeks.

LAST UPDATE | 15 May 2023

THE TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL election appears to be heading to a second-round run-off, with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has ruled his country with a firm grip for 20 years, falling short of the votes needed for an outright win.
99.4% of the domestic votes and 84% of the overseas votes have been counted so far.

Erdogan had 49.4% of the votes, with his main rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, garnering 45%, according to Ahmet Yener, the head of the Supreme Electoral Board.

A third candidate, nationalist politician Sinan Ogan, received 5.2%.

Erdogan, 69, told supporters in the early hours of Monday that he could still win but that he would respect the nation’s decision if the race went to a run-off on 28 May. 

Polls closed in the late afternoon yesterday after nine hours of voting.

If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the winner will be determined in a run-off on 28 May. 

The vote was being closely watched to see if the strategically located Nato country — which has a coast on the Black Sea to the north, and neighbours Iran, Iraq and Syria to the south — remains under the control of the increasingly authoritarian president or can embark on a more democratic course that was envisioned by Mr Kilicdaroglu.

“We don’t yet know if the elections ended in the first round… If our nation has chosen for a second round, that is also welcome,” Erdogan said earlier, noting that votes from Turkish citizens living abroad still need to be tallied.

He garnered 60% of the overseas vote in 2018.

Kilicdaroglu sounded hopeful for a second-round victory.

“We will absolutely win the second round… and bring democracy,” said Kilicdaroglu, 74, maintaining that Erdogan had lost the trust of a nation now demanding change. 

This year’s election largely centred on domestic issues such as the economy, civil rights and the devastating earthquake in February that killed more than 50,000 people.

Western nations and foreign investors also await the outcome because of Erdogan’s unorthodox leadership of the economy and often mercurial but successful efforts to put the country at the centre of international negotiations.

Voters also elected politicians to fill the 600-seat Turkish parliament, which lost much of its legislative power under Erdogan’s executive presidency.

The election results showed that Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party was also set to retain its majority.

Anadolu news agency said Erdogan’s ruling party alliance was hovering around 49.3%, while Kilicdaroglu’s Nation Alliance had around 35.2% and support for a pro-Kurdish party stood above 10%.

The fact that Erdogan appears to have held on to his majority increases his chances of winning a second-round vote, with more voters likely to support Erdogan to avoid a split legislature.

The opposition has promised to return the governance system to a parliamentary democracy if it wins both the presidential and parliamentary ballots.

More than 64 million people, including 3.4 million overseas voters, were eligible to vote in the elections, which come the same year as the country will mark the centenary of its establishment as a republic — a modern, secular state born on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.

Voter turnout is traditionally strong, reflecting citizens’ continued belief in democratic balloting.

Yet the country has seen the suppression of freedom of expression and assembly under Erdogan and it is wracked by a steep cost-of-living crisis that critics blame on the government’s mishandling of the economy.

The country is also reeling from the effects of a powerful earthquake that caused devastation in 11 southern provinces in February, killing more than 50,000 people in unsafe buildings.

Erdogan’s government has been criticised for its delayed and stunted response to the disaster, as well as a lax implementation of building codes that exacerbated the casualties and misery.

Internationally, the elections were being watched closely as a test of a united opposition’s ability to dislodge a leader who has concentrated nearly all state powers in his hands.

Press Association
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