Turkish Presidential Election Heads for Runoff

Supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gather in Istanbul, Turkey, May 14, 2023.

UN News Turkey heads to a presidential runoff election after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led the first round of voting, beating expectations but falling short of the 50% threshold needed to win outright.

Erdogan told supporters in Ankara, “The winner has undoubtedly been our country,” and expressed confidence that he would prevail in the runoff, while top rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu said he would “absolutely win the second round.”

With most ballots counted Monday, Erdogan led with 49.5% of votes and Kilicdaroglu had 45%, said Ahmet Yener, head of the Supreme Electoral Board. He told reporters that third party candidate Sinan Ogan received 5.2% of the vote.

Yener said the remaining uncounted votes would not be enough for Erdogan to reach the 50% threshold, even if they all broke in his favor. A runoff election is set for May 28.

In Istanbul’s Uskudar district, Ismail, who asked to be identified by only his first name, told VOA he’s still coming to terms with Sunday’s vote.

“We didn’t expect it, and frankly, we were very hopeful that there would be a change, but again nothing has changed,” he said. “So, we are shocked. I don’t want to believe in the result.”

His friend, Cem, said he was not surprised by the outcome of the vote.

“There is not much to be surprised about; the strongest one won again! I mean, the big fish swallowed the small fish again; it’s as simple as that,” he said.

Both Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu had claimed the election would be the most important in the country’s history.

With inflation at more than 40% and people experiencing a cost-of-living crisis, the economy was seen as the most crucial issue for many voters.

Erdogan, who has been in power for 20 years and is the country’s longest-serving leader, has turned the government into a powerful executive presidency that allows him to rule by decree.

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