Turkey’s presidential election remained on edge early Monday and is likely to head to a runoff, with no candidate able to secure an outright majority in what appears to be the most serious challenge to incumbent leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s two-decade hold on power.
With nearly 99% of ballots counted, Erdogan is ahead with 49.35% of the vote, followed by his main rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu with 45%, according to multiple Turkish news branches.
A runoff between the two main candidates on May 28 looks increasingly likely, as neither candidate looks set to secure an absolute majority of more than 50%.
In parliamentary elections, also held on Sunday, the coalition led by Erdogan’s AK Party looks poised for a comfortable majority.
Appearing before his supporters early Monday, Erdogan said he was confident he could still win the presidential race, but if “our nation chose a second round, that is also welcome.” according to Associated Press.
Kilicdaroglu — who campaigned on a promise to fight the country’s severe inflation and reverse some of Erdogan’s authoritarian moves — told his supporters “we will absolutely win the second round … and bring democracy.”
Turkey’s Supreme Election Board will announce the final tally after all votes have been counted.
What to watch out for
The election results are likely to have major global ramifications, with Turkey emerging as a key player in rising tensions between the West and Russia following the latter’s invasion of Ukraine. Despite being a member of NATO, Turkey under Erdogan maintained friendly ties with Russia and even acquired military equipment from that country. This has caused unease among its NATO allies and has even resulted in blocking Ankara’s access to modern Western military equipment such as F-35 fighter jets. Recently, Erdogan threw a wrench in Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO, accusing them of harboring groups that Turkey designates as terrorists. Erdogan eventually agreed to admit Finland into the alliance, but Sweden’s bid to join remains blocked.
Erdogan has been at the helm of Turkey for more than two decades, first serving as the country’s prime minister from 2003 to 2014, and then taking over as the country’s president in 2014. Erdogan continued to collect during this tenure, with the role of prime minister being removed in 2017, after a failed coup attempt against him a year earlier. Erdogan, accused by rivals of being an autocrat, also dealt with free press and dissidents. However, Sunday’s election appears to be more focused on recent issues, including rising inflation in Turkey, a sharp devaluation of its currency and a devastating earthquake earlier this year that killed over 50,000 people. Despite these setbacks, Erdogan appears to have performed better than expected, with opinion polls showing Kilicdaroglu with a slight lead over his rival.
Türkiye sees a neck-and-neck race for the presidency (Hurriyet Daily)
The Turkish Erdogan says that he could still win, he would accept a second round of presidential elections (Associated Press)
Forbes – Business