Erdogan heading for a second round in Turkey’s closely-fought elections
Turkey’s knife-edge presidential election is likely to go to a second round, slated for May 28, as none of the candidates succeeded in securing 50% of the votes cast.
With 97.95% of votes already counted, long-time leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan had 49.34% of votes, compared to 44.99% for his main opponent – Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Anadolu reported.
Sinan Ogan, the third candidate received 5.28% of votes, the state-run news agency reported, freezing the possibility he could be a kingmaker in a potential second round.
The closely-contested election will ultimately decide the destiny of a prominent NATO ally and regional power broker at a time of rising uncertainty across the globe.
The mood noticeably darkened at the headquarters of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Party) as the leader’s chance to extend his 20-year rule looked like slipping away.
Meanwhile, Kilicdaroglu welcomed the possibility of a runoff and said his party would win. The politician represents an election coalition of six opposition parties – making it the first time Turkey’s split opposition coalesced around a single candidate.
In addition to millions of Turks, the international community is also closely monitoring the outcome of the vote, especially in Moscow and Europe.
A strong NATO member, Turkey has bolstered its relations with Russia in recent years. Amid the brutal war in Ukraine, Erdogan has caused a headache for the alliance’s expansion plans by stalling the membership of Sweden.
Over the last couple of years, the Turkish lira has dropped and prices have ballooned, triggering a cost of living crisis. On top of the crunch, deadly earthquakes hit the southeast region on February 6, killing more than 50,000 people in the country and neighbouring Syria.
Many criticised Erdogan for unsatisfactory relief efforts in the immediate aftermath of the disaster and lax building controls.
In recent days, the president increased the salaries of government workers by 45% and even lowered the retirement age. Meanwhile, 74-year-old former bureaucrat Kilicdaroglu has promised to fix the economy and restore democratic institutions.