President Tayyip Erdogan led opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu in Sunday’s election, but fell short of an absolute majority needed to extend his 20-year rule in Türkiye.
There will be a runoff election on May 28 between the incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu, candidate of a six-party opposition alliance as neither candidate achieved more than 50% of the vote. The ruling AK Party gained a majority in parliament despite a decline in the total number of seats. The number of AK Party seats in the House of Representatives has decreased from 296 to 258.
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This election occurs at a crucial moment for the country, which is battling high inflation and has recently endured devastation from earthquakes. Also, the presidential election will not only decide who leads Türkiye, but also whether it goes back to a more secular, democratic path, how it will deal with its severe cost of living problem, and how it will handle key relationships with Russia, the Middle East, and the West.
Erdogan, who has been in power since 2002, leads the country’s presidential election with 49.4 percent of the vote after nearly 99 percent of ballot boxes have been opened. His major opponent, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, is in second place with 44.96 percent of the vote.
The third candidate, Sinan Ogan of the right-leaning ATA Alliance, performed better than anticipated, garnering 5.2 percent of the vote.
As Sinan Ogan received 5.2% of the vote, analysts said he could be a “kingmaker” in the runoff depending on which candidate he supports.
Erdogan performed better than opinion polls
In a nation at a political crossroads, the results reflected a profound polarization. The vote was expected to grant Erdogan’s ruling alliance a majority in parliament, providing him a possible advantage in the runoff. Opinion polls conducted prior to the election indicated a very close contest, but gave Kilicdaroglu, the leader of a six-party alliance, a minor lead. On Friday, two polls indicated that he was above the 50% threshold.
The country of 85 million people, which is already struggling with skyrocketing inflation, is now facing two weeks of uncertainty that could roil markets; analysts anticipate fluctuations in the local currency and stock market.
Kilicdaroglu, who expected victory in the runoff, urged his supporters to exercise patience and accused Erdogan’s party of interfering with the counting and reporting of results.
However, Erdogan performed better than predicted by pre-election polls, and he appeared confident and combative as he addressed his supporters.
“We are already ahead of our closest rival by 2.6 million votes. We expect this figure to increase with official results,” Erdogan said.
Why a runoff election?
In Bangladesh, India, and many other countries, the candidate with the most ballots is declared elected, regardless of what percentage of the total vote he or she receives. In Türkiye, a presidential candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the vote to be proclaimed elected, and neither Erdogan nor Kilicdaroglu appear to have reached that threshold.
In accordance with Turkish election law, if no candidate receives 50% of the vote, the top two candidates will engage in a direct contest in a runoff election held on the Sunday following the initial election. Therefore, Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu will meet again on May 28.
In 2018, the last time presidential elections were held, there was no need for a runoff because Erdogan won the first round with 53% of the vote against three other candidates.
What the major candidates had promised in campaigns?
Recap Tayyip Erdogan- People’s alliance
- Earthquake relief: Construction of 650,000 new flats in southeastern Türkiye
- Economy: Reducing of inflation below 10 percent by 2024 while decreasing interest rates
- Housing: More regulations to protect citizens from extreme increase in housing costs.
- Refugees: More “voluntary” returns of Syrian refugees to their country.
- Foreign policy: Development of axis centered on Türkiye and continued normalization of relations with countries in the region.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu- Nation Alliance
- Earthquake relief: Construction of houses for survivors free of charge
- Economy: Reintroduction of more traditional economic policies and reduction in inflation
- Housing: Quadrupling of social housing inventory in five years. Cap on social housing lease costs at 20 percent of the minimum wage.
- Refugees: Returns of Syrian refugees back to their country in coordination with the Syrian government.
- Foreign policy: Closer relations with west.
Why this presidential election is crucial for the nation and international allies?
The selection of the next president of Türkiye is one of the most consequential political decisions in the country’s 100-year history and will have consequences far beyond its borders.
A triumph for Erdogan, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most important allies, is likely to elate the Kremlin but unnerve the Biden administration and a number of European and Middle Eastern leaders with strained relations with Erdogan.
Türkiye’s longest-serving leader has transformed the NATO member and Europe’s second-largest country into a global participant, modernized the nation through megaprojects such as new bridges and airports, and created an arms industry sought after by foreign nations.
However, his unsteady economic policy of low interest rates, which sparked a spiraling cost of living crisis and inflation, made him vulnerable to voter’s anger. His government’s delayed response to a devastating earthquake in southeast Türkiye earlier this year, which massacred 50,000 people, added to public discontentment.