With Erdogan Falling Short Of Clear Victory, Turkey Presidential Election Set To Go To Second Round


By Our Correspondent

NEW DELHI – With President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey for two decades, leading over his chief challenger but falling short of the votes needed for a clear victory, the election in the Muslim-majority secular nation is set to go to a second round, as mandated by the Constitution since the country switched to the Presidential form of government in 2018. In the run-off, the second round of voting will be held on May 28.

The preliminary results showed that Erdogan, 69, won 49.51%, his main challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu won 44.88% and the third candidate, Sinan Ogan, won 5.17% of the votes polled. As Erdogan’s alliance retains its hold on the Parliament, which too went to polls, he is considered to be in a good position to win the second round.

Western countries and foreign investors are keenly watching the elections in Turkey and waiting for the outcome, as the country has progressed fast and is at the centre of several major diplomatic negotiations. Turkey is an important player on issues such as war in Syria, NATO’s expansion and migration flows to Europe in view of its strategic location with a coast along the Black Sea and its borders with Iran, Iraq and Syria.

In the last Presidential election in 2018, Erdogan had secured 52.6% of the votes in the first round, thereby registering a clear victory. The Turkish President is elected using a two-round voting system, where a candidate must secure an absolute majority or more than 50% of the nationwide vote. If no candidate secures a majority in the first ballot, the second round of voting takes place. The national results are announced by the Supreme Electoral Council after counting all the votes.

Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi in Turkish), commonly known as the AK Party, and its allies secured 321 seats in the National Assembly, while the Opposition won 213 and the 66 remaining went to a pro-Kurdish alliance, according to preliminary results. The alliance led by Erdogan is likely to keep its majority in the 600-seat Parliament, although the Assembly has lost much of its power after a referendum that gave the Presidency additional legislative powers in 2017.

The elections were held in Turkey in the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis that saw inflation peak at 85% in October 2022 and earthquakes in February this year which killed more than 50,000 people in the country. These factors buoyed the Opposition’s hopes of unseating a leader known as Reis, or chief, by supporters of the AK Party. The 2023 elections also marked the centenary of the Republic of Turkey established as a modern and secular state.

In a bid to attract the voters hit hard by inflation, Erdogan increased wages and pensions and subsidised electricity and gas bills, while showcasing Turkey’s homegrown defence industry and infrastructure projects. Kilicdaroglu, head of the main Opposition Republican People’s Party, campaigned with the promise for economic prosperity as well as greater respect for human rights and rule of law. The third candidate, Sinan Ogan is a former academic who established the think tank, Türkiye Stratejik Analizler Merkezi (TURKSAM).

During the election campaign, Erdogan highlighted the advances made in Turkey during his 20-year rule while simultaneously lambasting the Opposition for supporting “terrorism” or being strongly influenced by the West. In the final hours before voting began, Erdogan made a campaign speech in a symbolic gesture at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, which was a mosque during the Ottoman rule and was later turned into a museum. In 2020, Erdogan turned it back into a mosque, defying international criticism.

On the other hand, Kilicdaroglu rounded his campaign off with a trip to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s mausoleum in Ankara. Irrespective of the margin between the two contenders ahead of the expected run-off, Erdogan appears to have defied many pollsters who said his rival had the edge and could even win outright without a run-off.

Erdogan said while commenting on the outcome of elections that the country showed that it had one of the most advanced democratic cultures in the world. “With the maturity it showed yesterday, Turkey has shown that it is one of the countries with the most advanced democratic culture in the world,” he said in a tweet. The President affirmed that he will emerge victorious in the May 28 run-off.

A victory for Erdogan, who is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most important allies, will make Kremlin happy, but it will unnerve the Joe Biden administration in the United States, as well as several European and Middle Eastern leaders who have had troubled relations with Erdogan. Under Erdogan’s leadership, Turkey has turned into a global player, become modernised through mega-projects such as new bridges and airports and built an arms industry sought by the foreign countries.

The election day on May 14 witnessed long queues outside polling stations. Voting was largely peaceful and conducted in an almost festival atmosphere, with some voters attending in local costumes or even arriving on horseback. There were sporadic incidents of scuffles between election observers from rival parties and allegations of ballot rigging at some polling stations.

Both the Presidential and Parliamentary election results in the earthquake-hit provinces revealed major support for Erdogan and his AK Party. The 11 provinces that were affected by February’s twin quakes were Kahramanmaras, Hatay, Gaziantep, Malatya, Diyarbakir, Kilis, Sanliurfa, Adiyaman, Osmaniye, Adana and Elazig. Eight of those backed Erdogan in the presidential polls. Adana, Hatay and Diyarbakir voted for Kilicdaroglu. In the parliamentary polls, 10 of these provinces voted for AK Party with the exception of the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakir.


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