The president of Türkiye, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, did not achieve an absolute majority and will have to settle the electoral contest in the second round with layman Kilicdaroglu. Both obtained less than half of the votes needed to win in the first round, an instance that is considered a setback for the president, who has always been re-elected in the last 20 years without having to reach the second electoral round.
With 96% of the vote, the conservative Erdogan, 69, obtained 49.1% of the votes, while his rival, the social democrat and secular Kilicdaroglu, 74, 45.2%, according to the independent agency ANKA.
To ensure victory in the first round, candidates need at least 50% of the vote plus one. The figures can still evolve, but they open the way to a second round on May 28.
Why are elections in Türkiye important?
In these historic elections, a coalition of six opposition parties from very different political traditions came together to present a single candidate, Kemal Klçdarolu. In addition, although the pro-Kurdish formation Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) – the third force in Parliament – did not join the opposition coalition, it did not present a candidate for the presidency and asked for the vote for Klçdarolu, who has been leading the CHP for 13 years ( Republican People’s Party), the main opposition party and the formation created by the founder of the homeland, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
This time, Erdogan came to the vote in a country hit by an economic crisis, with a currency devalued by half in two years and inflation that exceeded 85% in autumn.
The earthquake on February 6, which collapsed tens of thousands of buildings and caused the death of at least 50,000 people and displaced more than 3 million, called into question the omnipotence of a mega-president who centralizes all powers.
Precisely Erdogan has singled out as one of his great achievements the modernization of Turkey through construction, on which he based his success during his first decade in power, since he was prime minister.
However, the earthquake evidenced the corruption of contractors and authorities, who granted construction permits that did not comply with anti-seismic regulations.
His rival, Kilicdaroglu, opted for appeasement and promised to restore the rule of law and respect the institutions, affected in the last ten years by what his adversaries describe as Erdogan’s autocratic drift.
Türkiye, a member country of the NATO, it enjoys a privileged position between Europe and the Middle East and is an important diplomatic actor.
Erdogan accuses the opposition of being close to “terrorists”, of being “drunken” and of standing up for LGBTQ rights, which he says are a threat to traditional family values.
In a bid to appeal to inflation-stricken voters, he increased salaries and pensions and subsidized electricity and gas bills, while showcasing Turkey’s homegrown defense industry and infrastructure projects.
The president expanded the political alliance of his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, with two nationalist parties to include a small left-wing party and two fringe Islamist parties.
Kilicdaroglu’s six-party National Alliance vows to dismantle the narrowly voted presidential form of government in a 2017 referendum and return the country to a parliamentary form of government.
The alliance says it will restore the independence of the judiciary and central bank, institute checks and balances, and reverse democratic rollback and the crackdown on free speech and dissent under Erdoğan.
More than 60.9 million Turkish citizens were called to the polls this Sunday to elect the president and the members of the 28th. legislature.
In addition, the 600 members of the Grand National Assembly (parliament) were elected by proportional representation in 87 constituencies.
These seats were contested by 24 political parties and 151 candidates for independent deputies. A party needs at least 7% of the support to enter the legislative assembly.
In 2018, in the last presidential elections, Erdogan won the first round with more than 52.5% of the vote.