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Turkey’s election: the presidential election will have 2nd round

By Fábio Galão

Turkey held its most important and close election since Recep Erdoğan came to power 20 years ago.

The dispute will go to a second round, with a date set for May 28.

Erdoğan had 49.35% of the vote against 44.98% for Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), with 97.87% of the votes counted, according to state-run Anadolu news agency.

Erdoğan, Turkey’s election: the presidential election will have 2nd round
A woman hands out a brochure of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan while standing near a billboard with a picture of Turkish presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), in Istanbul, Turkey, 10 May 2023 (Photo internet reproduction)

The CHP accused the agency of not publishing reliable data, but a Turkish electoral authority bulletin, released when 92% of the votes had been counted, showed similar percentages.

Kilicdaroglu accused Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) of delaying the counting with demands for recounts, especially in opposition strongholds such as Ankara and Istanbul.

“It is a serious matter. The country can no longer tolerate uncertainty. ”

“Let the votes come in, and the result be known as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid of the nation’s will,” the opposition leader said.

The current president, for his part, stated in Ankara that he still believed in a first-round victory.

“We believe that we will finish this vote with more than 50% of the vote,” Erdogan said.

OPPOSITION LEADER

Kilicdaroglu, a parliamentarian in the Turkish National Assembly since 2002, has managed to articulate a broad alliance of opposition parties but has never been elected to an executive office.

He was vice president of the Socialist International between 2012 and 2014.

Kilicdaroglu promised during his campaign that, if elected, he would promote a political opening in Turkey after 20 years of Erdoğan’s rule.

“We will satisfy people’s yearning for democracy.”

“This is the biggest change and will be seen in Turkey and worldwide.”

“We will bring true democracy to this country,” he said in an interview with DW.

He also promised a greater rapprochement with the West.

“We are a member of NATO.”

“We are also a country that has applied for membership in the European Union,” said the opposition candidate, who also mentioned relations with Russia, from whom Turkey bought arms before the war in Ukraine.

“Of course, we would like good relations with Russia.”

“We have many business people working there. But we don’t think that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is right, and we don’t accept that” Kilicdaroglu pointed out.

Before Sunday’s vote, Kilicdaroglu accused Russia of interfering in the Turkish election, and Erdogan claimed that the opposition was working with US President Joe Biden to overthrow him.

TWO-DECADE DOMINANCE

Erdoğan has ruled Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister (2003-2014) and then as president.

Leader of the AKP, he has promoted a rapprochement between religion and state (as opposed to the secularism advocated by the CHP) and a democratic deterioration of Turkey, with increased arrests, authoritarianism, and censorship.

In addition to the authoritarian stance, the popularity of Erdoğan, who had won the 2018 presidential election in the first round, eroded for other reasons.

After the February earthquake this year in the country and Syria, which killed nearly 51,000 people in Turkey alone, his government was criticized for having, in 2018, applied an amnesty for irregular construction sites (the weakness of Turkish buildings amplified the lethality of this year’s earthquake, according to experts) and for the clumsy emergency response after the earthquake.

Another reason for the fall in his popularity was inflation, which reached 85% in October, the highest inter-annual level in 25 years.

Erdoğan was widely criticized for interfering with the Turkish central bank to cut interest rates. Inflation declined in the following months but is still high: the year-on-year index stood at 44% in April.

In foreign policy, Turkey has distanced itself from Europe and shifted its focus to the East, including intervention in Syria’s civil war, military operations in Iraq, and support for Azerbaijan in the conflict with Armenia.

Erdoğan caused international embarrassment when he announced that he would deny Sweden and Finland’s requests to join NATO, submitted after Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.

Turkish approval is necessary because the Western military alliance only accepts new members if there is unanimity among the countries already in it.

The Turkish president claimed that the two Nordic countries have failed to comply with extradition requests for people Ankara considers terrorists, especially Kurds, and asked that both suspend the arms embargo they had imposed on Turkey in 2019 following the Turkish incursion into northern Syria (a demand that was met).

In April, Finland joined NATO, but Ankara continues to oppose Sweden’s entry because it claims that Stockholm has not yet met all Turkish security demands.

News Turkey, English news Turkey, Turkis politics

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