September 24, 2023

ANKARA, Turkey – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has ruled his country with an increasingly tight grip for 20 yearsSunday was locked in a tight electoral race, as a run-off against his main challenger was possible when the final votes were counted.

The results, whether they come within days or after a second round of voting in two weeks, will determine whether the NATO ally that spans Europe and Asia but borders Syria and Iran remains under Erdogan’s control or is pushed by him. Main rival resumes promised more democratic path Leader of the Opposition Kemal Kilikdaroglu,

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Speaking to supporters in Ankara, Erdogan said he could still win, but would respect the country’s decision if the race restarts in two weeks.

“We do not know yet whether the elections have ended in the first round. … If our nation has chosen for a second round, that is also welcome,” Erdogan said early Monday, noting that the votes of Turkish citizens living abroad still needed to be counted. He secured 60% foreign votes in 2018.

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This year’s election focused largely on domestic issues such as the economy, civil rights and the February earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people. But Western countries and foreign investors also await results because of Erdogan’s uncertain leadership of the economy and efforts to keep Turkey at the center of international negotiations.

With the unofficial count nearly complete, voter support for the incumbent had fallen below the majority required for an outright victory for him. According to state-run news agency Anadolu, Erdogan had 49.6% of the vote, while Kilikdaroglu, the candidate of the six-party coalition, had 44.7%.

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Turkey’s election authority, the Supreme Electoral Board, said it was providing the numbers to competing political parties “immediately” and would make the results public after counting is completed and finalised.

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Most ballots from the 3.4 million eligible overseas voters still had to be counted, according to the board, and the May 28 election was not assured.

Howard Eisenstadt, an associate professor of Middle East history and politics at St. Lawrence University in New York, said Erdogan was likely to have an advantage in the runoff because the president’s party was expected to do better in Sunday’s parliamentary election. He said voters would not want a “divided government”.

Erdogan, 69, has ruled Turkey since 2003 either as prime minister or president. In the run-up to the election, opinion polls indicated that the increasingly authoritarian leader was trailing his challenger.

With partial results showing otherwise, members of Kilikdaroglu’s centre-left, pro-secular Republican People’s Party, or CHP, disputed Anadolu’s initial numbers, contending the state-run agency was biased in Erodegan’s favor.

Omer Celik, a spokesman for Erdogan’s Justice and Development, or AK, party, in turn accused the opposition of “attempting to murder the national will”. He described the opposition’s claims as “irresponsible”.

While Erdogan is expected to win a five-year term that would take him well into his third decade as Turkey’s leader, Kilikdaroglu, 74, has criticized free speech and other forms of democratic backsliding as well as repairing an economy Campaigned on promises. battered by high inflation and currency devaluation.

Voters also chose lawmakers to fill Turkey’s 600-seat parliament, which lost most of its legislative power after a referendum narrowly changed the country’s system of governance to an executive presidency. passed in 2017,

With 92% of ballot boxes counted, the Anadolu news agency said Erdogan’s ruling party coalition was hovering below 50%, while Kilikdaroglu’s Nation coalition was at around 35% and the pro-Kurdish party above 10%.

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Erdogan said, “The results of the election have not been finalized, it does not change the fact that the nation has chosen us.”

More than 64 million people, including overseas voters, were eligible to vote and approximately 89% voted. This year marks 100 years since Turkey was founded as a republic – a modern, secular state that was born on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.

Voter turnout in Turkey is traditionally strong, despite the government’s suppression of freedom of expression and assembly, and especially since the 2016 coup attempt. Erdogan blamed the failed coup on followers of a former ally, cleric Fethullah Gülen, and launched a massive crackdown on civil servants with alleged ties to Gülen and pro-Kurdish politicians.

internationallyThe elections were seen as a test of a united opposition’s ability to remove a leader who has concentrated almost all state power in his hands and worked to exert more influence. world stage,

Erdogan, along with the United Nations, helped mediate an agreement with Ukraine and Russia that allowed Ukrainian grain to reach the rest of the world from Black Sea ports despite Russia’s war in Ukraine. The agreement, which is implemented by an Istanbul-based center, is due to expire in a few days, and Turkey hosted talks last week to keep it alive.

But Erdogan has also put Sweden’s quest to join NATO on hold. seeking concessionsArguing that the nation was too lenient towards the followers of a US-based cleric and members of pro-Kurdish groups that Turkey regards as a threat to national security.

Critics say the president’s heavy-handed style is to blame for a painful cost-of-living crisis. The latest official figures put inflation at around 44%, down from a high of around 86%. The cost of vegetables became an election issue for the opposition, which used the onion as a symbol.

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Contrary to mainstream economic thinking, Erdogan argues that high interest rates fuel inflation, and has pressured the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey to lower its key rate several times.

Erdogan’s government has faced criticism for an allegedly delayed and slow response to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated 11 southern provinces. Lax implementation of building codes is believed to have contributed to the casualties and misery.

In his election campaign, Erdogan used his dominant position over state resources and the media to try to woo voters. He accused the opposition of colluding with “terrorists”, being “drunk” and upholding LGBTQ+ rights, which he describes as a threat to traditional family values ​​in the predominantly Muslim nation.

To gain support, the Turkish leader increased salaries and pensions and subsidized electricity and gas bills while showcasing Turkey’s indigenous defense and infrastructure projects.

“Having a paycheck, or putting food on the table, is not necessarily the identity one feels for one’s own political party,” said Essentet, a university professor. “Erdogan’s efforts to polarize, portray the opposition as traitors and terrorists, the use of culture wars, … it’s all designed to play on those dynamics.”

Kilicdaroglu’s Nation Alliance pledged to return Turkey’s system of governance to a parliamentary democracy if it won both the presidential and parliamentary ballots. It also promised to restore the independence of the judiciary and Central bank,

“We all have missed democracy a lot. We missed being together,” Kilikdaroglu said after voting at a school in Ankara.

Also seeking the presidency was Sinan Ogan, a former academic who had the support of the Immigrant Nationalist Party and so far received more than 5% of the vote.