Elections in Turkey: Erdogan below 50%, towards a second round

A second round on May 28 now seems certain. THE two contenders for power in Türkiye, outgoing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his opponent, Kemal Kilicdarogluboth say they are in a position to win at the end of the Sunday poll.

Not quite a victory, but certainly not a defeat for Erdogan, the Islamo-conservative autocrat at the head of the country for twenty years, who declared himself convinced in front of a tide of supporters exulting in the heart of the night “to still serve his country for five years.

President Erdogan, and his wife, greeting their supporters in Ankara.
President Erdogan, and his wife, greeting their supporters in Ankara.

Same confidence displayed by his rival, who promised his camp that he would “absolutely win in the second round”, arguing “the need for change in society”.

On the evening of an election which saw an unprecedented mobilization of the electorate, despite the crisis and three months after the devastating earthquake of February 6the 69-year-old “reis” claims to be “clearly in the lead” in the presidential election, but ready to “respect” a second round if necessary.

“We don’t know yet if the election is over with this first round, but if the people take us to the second round, we will respect it,” he promised.

This is the first time that the head of state, 69, would be forced to appear a second time before the voters for lack of having gathered 50% of the votes.

The 3rd candidate at 5%

Facing him, the Social Democrat Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, a 74-year-old former senior civil servant who led an unprecedented coalition of six opposition parties, was regularly given the lead by polling institutes, even by a short head.

Social Democratic candidate Kemal KiliçdarogluREUTERS / Yves Herman
Social Democratic candidate Kemal KiliçdarogluREUTERS / Yves Herman REUTERS

But according to the results covering 95% of the ballots, he totaled just 45% of the votes at 03:30 Monday (00:30 GMT) according to the official Anadolu agency.

His camp immediately disputed the figure, saying results from polling stations most favorable to the candidate remained stuck in the Election Commission (YSK) system.

“You are obstructing the will of Turkey. But you cannot prevent what is going to happen, we will never accept the fait accompli,” warned Mr. Kiliçdaroglu.

The third candidate, Sinon Ogan, a dissident from the nationalist MHP party credited with around 5% of the vote, is preparing to negotiate them without specifying with whom.

In the evening, the two camps fought a battle of figures, enjoining their respective observers to stay on the counting places “until the end”.

“We want the French revolution”

Throughout the day, the ballot boxes had been filled at high speed with large mustard-colored envelopes deposited by enthusiastic voters who sometimes waited several hours before being able to vote.

The participation rate, it seems close to 90%, has not been officially communicated. The 64 million voters also had to choose the 600 deputies who will sit in the unicameral parliament in Ankara. Erdogan claimed “half” of it for his camp.

In 2018, during the last presidential election, the head of state won in the first round with more than 52.5% of the vote. This ballot is therefore already a setback for Mr. Erdogan, who knew how to develop his country and pull it towards prosperity before an autocratic drift. And encouragement for the secular and pro-democracy vision of Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, head of the CHP, the party of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of modern Turkey.

“To put it simply, we want the French revolution: Equality, freedom, fraternity, because these last 20 years, all that has disappeared”, estimated in an upscale district of Istanbul Ulvi Aminci, 58, blue jeans and tattoo on the hand.

“I say continue with Erdogan”, implored on the contrary Nurcan Soyer, scarf on the head, in front of the polling station of Erdogan on the Asian side.

In the battered city of Antakya, the former Antioch (south) ruined by the February earthquake, Mehmet Topaloglu, who arrived among the first, demanded “change: that’s enough”.

Mr. Kiliçdaroglu led a united front of six parties from the nationalist right to the liberal center left supposed to guarantee him victory, with the support of the pro-Kurdish HDP party, the third political force in the country.

Mr. Erdogan, on the other hand, was facing a country worn down by an economic crisis, with a currency devalued by half in two years and inflation that exceeded 85% in the fall.

Despite everything, “the people have chosen stability and security in this presidential election”, he said.

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