ANKARA, May 15 (AP) It’s close, but not close enough. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the most votes in the weekend’s presidential election but was unable to declare victory after failing to secure the majority needed for an outright victory.
Preliminary results showed the longtime leader with 49.5 percent of the vote. His main challenger, opposition leader Kemal Kilidaroglu, won 45 percent of the vote, according to Turkish election authorities. The third candidate, nationalist politician Sinan Organ, received 5.2 percent support.
The election is being watched internationally to see where Turkiye will go in the future. The strategically located NATO member has cultivated friendly relations with Russia, becoming less secular and leaning toward authoritarianism under Erdogan.
Kilicdaroglu has pledged to reposition the country as a democracy and is expected to take a more pro-Western stance.
The result means Erdogan, 69, and Kilidaroglu, 74, will contest the May 28 runoff, the Supreme Electoral Council said on Monday. Here’s Turkey’s two-round presidential election system and what happens next:
How do the two rounds of elections work?
Since first taking power as prime minister in 2003, Erdogan has tightened his grip on NATO member Turkiye and successfully transformed the country’s system of government from a parliamentary democracy to an executive presidential system through a 2017 referendum.
The change, which took effect after the 2018 election, removed the prime minister and concentrated broad powers in the hands of the president.
It was therefore decided that the Heads of State and Government would need to receive more than 50% of the votes to gain office in an election. With neither Erdogan nor Kilidaroglu doing so that Sunday, the two front-runners must face off again in two weeks, while the third candidate is out.
France and some other European countries use a similar process to elect a president.
What role does the third candidate play?
Organ, 55, a former academic backed by an anti-immigration party, could now be kingmaker in the runoff now that he has dropped out of the race. He has not endorsed any of the remaining candidates.
Turkish nationalists are unhappy with Erdogan but are reluctant to vote for Kilicdaroglu, who is backed by a six-party coalition and the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and appears to have a majority of Ogan’s votes.
The far right has accused the pro-Kurdish party of having links to illegal Kurdish militants – an allegation the party denies. Organ has said he would not support any candidate who “does not distance itself from terrorist groups”.
Soner Cagaptay, a Turkiye expert at the Washington Institute think tank, said most Ogun voters were likely to back Erdogan regardless of whether their initial candidate backed the Turkish leader.
“What is certain is that Erdogan will sweep the second round,” Kagapute said.
What are the possible scenarios?
Erdogan performed better than expected in Sunday’s election, with his party’s Awami League retaining a majority in Turkey’s 600-seat parliament.
That gives the Turkish leader an edge in the runoff, analysts say, as voters may want to avoid having different factions run the executive and legislative branches.
Erdogan said the same thing earlier on Monday.
“We have no doubt that our country’s preference will give the Awami League a majority in parliament, which will be good for (second round) confidence and stability,” the president told his supporters in Ankara.
Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kilida Roglu said he was certain of winning in the second round, but Sunday’s results suggested he may struggle to attract enough votes even if he is the candidate for a six-party national coalition .
Expectations ahead of the runoff
Analysts believe the campaign ahead of the runoff could be brutal. Ahead of Sunday’s vote, Erdogan downplayed the opposition, saying it was backed by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). At one rally, he showed hundreds of thousands of supporters a fake video that he claimed showed a PKK commander singing an opposition campaign song.
“Information control is President Erdogan’s greatest asset in the campaign and going into the election season. And I think the media loyal to him has succeeded in characterizing the HDP’s support of Kilicdaroglu as terrorist support,” Cagaptay said. “It helps scare off some nationalist voters.”
Kilicdaroglu said Erdogan had failed to achieve the results he wanted despite “slandering and insulting” the opposition.
Analysts also warned of economic turmoil in the next two weeks. Markets are watching the election to see if Turkey will return to more traditional economic policies as promised by Kilidaroglu. Experts say Erdogan’s economic policies have run counter to mainstream theory, contributing to the country’s currency crisis and soaring inflation.
The BIST 100 index of the Turkish stock exchange Borsa Istanbul opened down 6.2 percent on Monday before paring some losses.
“Turkiye’s political fate hangs in the balance ahead of a second round of voting scheduled for May 28,” Bartosz Sawicki, a market analyst at financial services firm Conotoxia, wrote in emailed comments. “(The outcome will) determine whether Turkiye will Will it continue on an unorthodox policy path that exacerbates imbalances, or will it, in 20 years, return to a path of reform and recovery using a more economic-textbook approach.” (Associated Press)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)