Erdogan: Turkey faces a second round with Erdogan in the lead

ANKARA: Turkey heading for second round of presidential election after president Tayip Erdogan beat projections in Sunday’s election as he sought to extend his two-decade rule, holding a sizable lead over his rival but short of an outright majority.
Neither Erdogan neither his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu crossed the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff, to be held on May 28, in an election seen as a verdict on Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian path.
The presidential vote will not only decide who leads Turkey, a NATO member country of 85 million people, but also whether it returns to a more secular and democratic path; how it will manage its severe cost-of-living crisis and manage its key relationships with Russia, the Middle East and the West.
Kilicdaroglu, who said he would win the second round, urged his supporters to be patient and accused Erdogan’s party of interfering with the counting and reporting of results.
But Erdogan performed better than pre-election polls predicted, and he appeared in a confident and combative mood as he addressed his flag-waving and cheering supporters.
“We are already ahead of our nearest rival with 2.6 million votes. We expect this figure to increase with the official results,” Erdogan said.
With nearly 97% of the ballot boxes counted, Erdogan was in the lead with 49.39% of the vote and Kilicdaroglu had 44.92%, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. Turkey’s High Electoral Commission gave Erdogan 49.49% with 91.93% of the ballot boxes counted.
Erdogan has the advantage
The results reflected a deep polarization in a country at a political crossroads. The vote was expected to give Erdogan’s ruling alliance a majority in parliament, giving it a potential advantage ahead of the second round.
Opinion polls before the election had indicated a very close race but gave Kilicdaroglu, who leads a six-party alliance, a slight lead. Two polls on Friday even showed it above the 50% threshold.
“Erdogan will have an advantage in a second vote after his alliance did much better than the opposition alliance,” said Hakan Akbas, managing director of policy advisory services Strategic Advisory Services.
A third nationalist presidential candidate, Sinan Ogan, won 5.3% of the vote. He could be a “kingmaker” in the second round depending on which candidate he endorses, analysts said.
The opposition said Erdogan’s party was delaying the appearance of full results by filing objections, while authorities released the results in an order that artificially increased Erdogan’s tally.
Kilicdaroglu, in a previous appearance, said Erdogan’s party was “destroying the will of Turkey” by opposing the counting of more than 1,000 ballot boxes. “You cannot prevent what will happen with objections. We will never let this become a done deal,” he said.
Meanwhile, fans from both sides celebrated.
Thousands of Erdogan voters converged on the party headquarters in Ankara, playing party songs through loudspeakers and waving Erdogan flags and posters. Some danced in the street.
Putin’s key ally
“We know it’s not exactly a party yet but we hope we’ll celebrate his victory soon. Erdogan is the best leader we’ve had for this country and we love him,” said Yalcin Yildrim, 39, owner of a textile factory.
Feyyaz Balcu, 23, a cybersecurity engineer, said: “We accept that the economy is not in good shape right now, but Erdogan will improve it.”
At the CHP party headquarters in Kilicdaroglu, supporters waved flags of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and beat drums.
The choice of Turkey’s next president is one of the most important political decisions in the country’s 100-year history and will reverberate far beyond Turkey’s borders.
A victory for Erdogan, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most important allies, will likely cheer the Kremlin but anger the Biden administration, as well as many European and Middle Eastern leaders who had troubled relations with Erdogan.
Turkey’s longest-serving leader has transformed the NATO member and Europe’s second-largest country into a global player, modernized it with megaprojects such as new bridges and airports, and built a manufacturing industry. weaponry sought by foreign states.
But his volatile economic policy of low interest rates, which sparked a spiraling cost-of-living crisis and inflation, has left him angered by voters. His government’s slow response to a devastating earthquake in southeastern Turkey that killed 50,000 people earlier this year added to voter dismay.
Parliamentary majority
Kilicdaroglu pledged to revive democracy after years of state repression, return to orthodox economic policies, strengthen institutions that lost their autonomy under Erdogan and rebuild fragile ties with the West.
Thousands of political prisoners and activists could be freed if the opposition wins.
Critics fear Erdogan could rule even more autocratically if he wins another term. The 69-year-old president, veteran of a dozen electoral victories, says he respects democracy.
In the parliamentary vote, Erdogan’s Islamist-origin AKP People’s Alliance, nationalist MHP and others performed better than expected and headed for a majority.
With 93% of the votes counted, he was in the running for 324 seats in the 600-seat parliament. Kilicdaroglu’s National Alliance, made up of six opposition parties, including its secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) created by Ataturk, was on course to win 211 seats.
The Labor and Freedom alliance, led by the pro-Kurdish Green Left party, was heading for 65 seats.


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