Turkish Presidential Elections: Erdoğan’s Lead Shrinks as Runoff Looms

2023-05-14 20:12:00

Erdoğan’s lead over Kılıçdaroğlu is shrinking as more votes are counted. The opposition accuses the state news agency Anadolu of manipulation and sees their candidate Kılıçdaroğlu slightly ahead. Erdoğan, on the other hand, accuses the opposition of “stealing” the “national will”.

The outcome of Turkey’s presidential elections may not be decided until a runoff on May 28. That’s what insiders from both camps said on Sunday evening. Previously, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s lead had been shrinking. A runoff is required if no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the votes in the first round.

And shortly after 10 p.m., incumbent Erdoğan fell below the 50 percent mark, state media reports – with a count of 88.59 percent. Turkish media, citing figures from the state agency Anadolu, reported that Erdoğan received 49.94 percent of the vote and opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu 44.30 percent.

In addition to the two, there was another, less well-known candidate in the first round of voting, namely Sinan Oğan, who came to 5.3 percent according to preliminary results. Oğan is a candidate for an ultra-nationalist party alliance. Another candidate, Muharram İnce, dropped out but still received 0.46 percent of the vote.

AKP strongholds counted first

In the first counts by Erdoğan at the beginning. However, the numbers only referred to just over 60 percent of the votes that were counted, most of which came from strongholds of Erdoğan’s Islamic-conservative AKP government. According to the agency, Erdoğan was initially at 54.3 percent after 25.7 percent of the votes counted.

According to figures from the pro-opposition news portal Anka, Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu were almost equal after partial counts – and both below 50 percent.

The opposition candidate himself was optimistic after counting the first votes. “We’re ahead,” said the 74-year-old. Which in turn prompted Erdoğan to accuse the opposition of “stealing the national will.”

Ekrem İmamoğlu, mayor of Istanbul and party friend of Kılıçdaroğlu, called on CHP party headquarters to ignore Anadolu’s numbers. “We don’t believe Anadolu,” he said. The Mayor of Ankara, Mansur Yavaş, also states that Kılıçdaroğlu is currently ahead. This applies to the counting of almost 24 percent of the votes, says Yavaş, who, like Kılıçdaroğlu, is a member of the CHP.

The Turkish government accused the opposition of a “dictatorial attitude” during the vote count. Announcing a result early would be “political robbery,” said the spokesman for the ruling AKP, Ömer Çelik, on Sunday evening. The top Turkish electoral authority had previously lifted a ban on the publication of election results until 8 p.m.

Parliament is also re-elected

In addition to the presidential election, there was also a parliamentary election. Here, Erdoğan’s AKP is around 36 percent ahead of Kılıçdaroğlu’s opposition CHP with 24.7 percent, Turkish media reported after counting around 80 percent of the votes.

The alliance of AKP and three other parties was therefore more than 50 percent of the votes. While the alliance of CHP and iYi came to 34.56 percent.

Most powerful head of state since Ataturk

Erdoğan, who has been in power for more than two decades, is now the most powerful head of state in Turkey since Ataturk. However, its popularity has suffered, partly because of high inflation, which has drastically increased the cost of living for many Turks. Kılıçdaroğlu had announced that Turkey would become a parliamentary democracy again, that the president’s powers would be curtailed and that the judiciary would be independent. He also wants to make peacekeeping a central part of his foreign policy.

“We pray to God for a better future for our country, our nation and Turkish democracy,” Erdoğan said when voting in Istanbul. His opponent Kılıçdaroğlu smiled as he cast his ballot in Ankara and emerged to applause from the waiting crowd. “I extend my sincere love and respect to all my citizens who go to the polls and cast their ballots,” Kilicdaroglu said. “We all miss democracy so much.”


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