Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu are heading for a runoff

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey and presidential candidate, puts his ballot in a ballot box at a polling station in Istanbul. Parliamentary and presidential elections began in Turkey on Sunday. © picture alliance/dpa/Pool Reuters/AP

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Incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan most likely missed out on a victory in the first round of the presidential election in Turkey. After counting around 89 percent of the votes, a runoff election with opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu on May 28 was on the cards.

Erdogan was around 49.94 percent and thus below the required absolute majority of 50 percent of the votes, as the state news agency Anadolu reported on Sunday evening (May 14). Kilicdaroglu, joint candidate of a six-party alliance, reached 44.3 percent.

Data published by the opposition also point to a runoff election. She saw Kilicdaroglu at 47.7 percent on Sunday evening, Erdogan at 45.8 percent after counting around 130,000 ballot boxes.

According to Anadolu, the candidate of an ultra-nationalist party alliance, Sinan Ogan, had 5.3 percent. Muharrem Ince of the Fatherland Party withdrew his candidacy shortly before the election, but his name was still on the ballot papers. It will be important in the run-off which voting recommendation the third-placed Ogan makes.

Türkiye: landmark choice

The elections in Turkey are considered trend-setting and, due to the expected domestic and foreign policy effects, one of the most important in the world this year.

The opposition and the government argued about the results published by the state agency. The opposition accused Erdogan’s Islamic-conservative governing party of “tactical manoeuvres” in the counting of votes. According to them, Kilicdaroglu is just ahead, the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara said at a joint press conference in the capital.

Erdogan’s Islamic conservative AKP deliberately objected to the results in opposition strongholds. This makes counting slower and the result is initially in favor of the government. The chief of the electoral authority, Ahmet Yener, said there were no problems with the electoral authority.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu waves
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the CHP party and presidential candidate of the National Alliance, waves to his supporters after casting their vote at a polling station. Parliamentary and presidential elections began in Turkey on Sunday.© picture alliance/dpa/AP

Erdogan accuses the opposition of “stealing the national will”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the opposition’s statements during the ongoing count on Twitter as “stealing the national will”. AKP spokesman Ömer Celik, on the other hand, accused the opposition of a “dictatorial attitude” during the counting of votes because they announced the results early on.

Ertim Orkun, head of the independent election observer organization Oy ve Ötesi, said there were still ballot boxes being counted. There is no final report there. Some would be counted again and again. There are also objections to data that have already been received by the YSK electoral authority. “Of course, that slows down data entry.”

The state agency usually first publishes the counting results in Erdogan strongholds. The first data therefore do not yet allow any conclusions to be drawn about the final result.

There were also signs of a tight race in Parliament. After opening 82.7 percent of the voting boxes, the Erdogan Alliance has a narrow majority of 50.5 percent of the votes, according to Anadolu. The alliance around Kilicdaroglu would therefore only get 34.5 percent of the votes. Even with the support of the alliance surrounding the pro-Kurdish HDP (9.5 percent), they would not have an absolute majority.

Erdogan with more power than ever

Since the introduction of a presidential system five years ago, the 69-year-old Erdogan has had more power than ever before and can largely rule without parliament. Critics fear that the country, with a population of around 85 million, could slide completely into autocracy if he wins again. The vote in the NATO country is also being closely observed internationally.

According to an initial assessment by the competent authority, the election ran smoothly. Opposition politicians reported minor incidents from various provinces.

Around 64 million people in Germany and abroad were invited to vote. In Germany, around 1.5 million people with a Turkish passport were entitled to vote.

Tense election campaign: Inflation dominant issue

The election campaign was tense and considered unfair, mainly because of the government’s superior media power. The dominant theme was the poor economic situation with massive inflation. Erdogan promised, among other things, an increase in civil servants’ salaries and further investments in the defense industry. He waged an aggressive campaign, calling the opposition “terrorists”. A popular opposition politician had been stoned just a week before the election. Kilicdaroglu wore a bulletproof vest during a performance in the Erdogan stronghold of Samsun on Friday.

Kilicdaroglu is considered a level-headed politician. He comes from the eastern Turkish province of Tunceli and belongs to the Alevi religious minority. The opposition leader wants to restore the independence of institutions like the central bank and get high inflation under control. He stands for a rapprochement with Germany and the EU, but also for a stricter migration policy.


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