Candidates in Turkey are preparing for a runoff election
In the presidential election in Turkey, the two main competitors appear to be preparing for a runoff in two weeks. Opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu said after almost all the votes were counted early Monday that in the event of a runoff “we will definitely win the second round”. Incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan referred to his “clear leadership” in front of supporters in Ankara, but was also ready for a runoff election.
The Turkish head of state also claimed a clear majority for his Islamic-conservative AKP and their allies in the parliamentary elections taking place at the same time.
The state news agency Anadolu reported during the night, with reference to more than 96 percent of the votes counted, that President Erdogan had a share of just under 50 percent – for the president the share was 49.4 percent and for Kilicdaroglu 44.9 percent. According to the agency, at the beginning of the evening Erdogan was still at 54.3 percent after counting around 25 percent of the votes. Apparently, votes from strongholds of the Islamic-conservative president were initially counted.
Whoever gets more than 50 percent of the votes in the first ballot becomes the new president. If none of the candidates manages this, the two first-place winners will compete against each other in a run-off election in two weeks. It would be the first runoff in Turkey’s history.
The third candidate for the presidency, Sinan Ogan, received around five percent of the votes, according to the pro-opposition news portal Anka. “In the event of a runoff, we’re going to have a difficult 14 days ahead of us,” Ogan said on election night without indicating which candidate he would support on May 28.
During a speech on Monday night on the balcony of the AKP party headquarters, Erdogan said: “We don’t yet know whether the election will be over in the first round, but if the people send us to a second round, we will also respect.”
Erdogan claimed he has a “clear lead” over his challenger Kilicdaroglu. “We respect the election and we will respect the next election,” he said. “I believe with all my heart that we will continue to serve our people for the next five years.”
Kilicdaroglu was also confident of victory on Monday. Society’s will to change is “higher than 50 percent,” he said confidently.
Kilicdaroglu’s camp initially had doubts about the vote count and believed his candidate to be in the lead.
Ekrem Imamoglu, mayor of Istanbul and party friend of Kilicdaroglu, accused the government camp of manipulating the numbers. According to him, government officials began contesting results in strongholds for the parties of Kilicdaroglu’s opposition alliance. This is also happening where his party is “clearly” ahead, Imamoglu told journalists. According to figures from the Anka news portal, which is close to the opposition, Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu were almost equal after partial counts – and both below 50 percent.
Most polls had predicted Kilicdaroglu’s narrow lead in the presidential election, with some even suggesting he could win in the first round.
According to observers, the turnout was remarkably high, but the official number has not yet been released. In the last national election in 2018, the 69-year-old Erdogan won the first round with 52.5 percent of the votes, and the turnout was over 86 percent.
Erdogan has ruled the country with its 85 million inhabitants for two decades; since 2003 initially as Prime Minister and since 2014 as President. For years, critics have accused him of undermining democracy and an authoritarian style of government that suppresses opponents of the government. The opposition has promised a return to democracy, respect for freedom of expression and the restoration of an independent judiciary.
Despite a few irregularities, the evening of the election passed largely without serious incidents. According to Janine Wissler, head of the German Left Party, some election observers from Germany were prevented from working in Turkey. Observers from a left-wing delegation were prevented from entering the polling stations by armed police officers, Wissler told the AFP news agency. Hakan Tas, an election observer on behalf of the left, spoke of denied access to Turkish independent election observers as well.
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