Turkey’s historic election goes to second round, Erdogan enjoys huge advantage

Turkey faced its first election runoff after a night of high drama showed President Erdogan edging ahead of his secular rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu but failing to secure a first-round win by only 0.75%. His Republic Alliance scored 323 seats in the 600 seat legislature, according to preliminary results announced by High Election Council. Preliminary analysis by experts gives Erdogan a huge edge in the second round, though led by Kilicdaroglu the opposition wowed to fight to the bitter end.

Erdogan sounded triumphant as he emerged before a sea of supporters shortly after midnight to proclaim himself ready to lead the nation for another five years.


Complete, but non-final results from Turkey’s most important election of  her democracy era—  showed the 20 year incumbent falling just short of the 50-percent threshold needed, according to AFP.


“I wholeheartedly believe that we will continue to serve our people in the coming five years,” the 69-year-old leader said to huge cheers in his traditional balcony speech.

His Islamic-ruling party, its ultranationalist ally MHP and two staunchly Islamist fringe parties captured a clear majority in parliament. Figures from the Anadolu state news agency showed Erdogan picking up 49.4 percent of the vote. Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu was trailing with 45.0 percent — a disappointing outcome after late pre-election polls showed him in the lead.

Turkey’s first presidential runoff in the mostly Muslim but officially secular state’s 100-year history is planned for May 28.

Kilicdaroglu remained defiant: “If our nation says second round, we will absolutely win in the second round,” he said. “The will for change in the society is higher than 50 percent.”


The nation spoke loudly

Turnout was estimated to slightly surpass 90 percent in what has become a referendum on Turkey’s longest-serving leader and his Islamic-rooted party.  While allegations of voter fraud  are still being investigated, as challenges to some results are working their way through the local and provincial election authorities, it is clear that the nation spoke loudly in favor of Erdogan’s rule, but the 50-50 split of the electorate both in the presidential and parliamentary elections bodes ill for the future, because Turkish experts don’t expect Erdogan to change his heterodox economic policy or his polarizing attitude towards dissenters of any kind.


Erdogan has steered the nation of 85 million through one of its most transformative and divisive eras. Turkey has grown into a military and geopolitical heavyweight that plays roles in conflicts from Syria to Ukraine.

The NATO member’s footprint in both Europe and the Middle East makes the election’s outcome as critical for Washington and Brussels as it is for Damascus and Moscow.

Erdogan is lionized across swathes of conservative Turkey that witnessed a development boom during his rule, AFP reported.


More religious voters are also grateful for his decision to lift secular-era restrictions on headscarves and introduce more Islamic schools.


We all missed democracy

Erdogan’s first decade of economic revival and warming relations with Europe was followed by a second one filled with social and political turmoil.

He responded to a failed 2016 coup attempt with sweeping purges that sent chills through Turkish society and made him an increasingly uncomfortable partner for the West.

The emergence of Kilicdaroglu and his six-party opposition alliance — the type of broad-based coalition Erdogan excelled at forging throughout his career — gives foreign allies and Turkish voters a clear alternative.

A runoff in two weeks could give Erdogan time to regroup and reframe the debate. But he would still be hounded by Turkey’s most dire economic crisis of his time in power, and disquiet over his government’s stuttering response to the February earthquake that claimed more than 50,000 lives.

“We all missed democracy,” Kilicdaroglu said after voting in the capital Ankara. “You will see, God willing, spring will come to this country.”

Pre-election polls indicated Kilicdaroglu would win the youth vote — nearly 10 percent of the electorate — by a two-to-one margin. Erdogan’s campaign became increasingly tailored to his core supporters as Election Day neared.


He branded the opposition a “pro-LGBT” lobby that took orders from outlawed Kurdish terror outfit PKK and was bankrolled by the West.

In the absence of exit polls, it is not clear why half the nation chose Erdogan over the opposition, though his lavish social spending, with promises of more to come if he wins must have carried some weight with undecided voters.

Many experts claim the protest candidate, nationalist and anti-immigration Sinan Ogan, who garnered an unexpected 5% of the nation vote controls the route to victory in the second round.  In his first comments after the election, he refused to endorse either candidate, or  hint at what kind of concessions he demands from them in return for his support. He is against both AKP ally Huda-Par and the pro-Kurdish Rights party Green Left (formerly HDP), which backed Kilicdaroglu in the presidential contest.

Some argue his constituency will not care much about his endorsement, either staying home in the second round or reverting to their origins. The race is expected to be close, but Kilicdaroglu needs a higher turn-out by his voters, as well as at least 80% of Ogan supporters migrating to his banner to edge out Erdogan.

His Nation Alliance sounds determined to battle until the last second, but it is not clear whether its leaders will hit the campaign trail again, or come up with a new strategy to whittle away at Erdogan’s arithmetic advantage.

In a close race, the Erdogan-stuffed high Election Council is expected to certify him as the winner.

With no sign that he will amend his erratic and unconventional economic policies which is pushing Turkey closer to a currency crisis, his faithful supporters may pay a very high price for their sacrifice and loyalty.


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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and www.paraanaliz.com and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.