A third nationalist candidate has emerged in the first round of Turkey’s crucial presidential election, and his coalition could prove decisive in the fate of Sunday’s run-off vote.
In the May 14 poll, incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan received 49.5 percent of the vote, while Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a candidate from the main opposition coalition, won. received 44.8% of the vote.
A third candidate, Sinan Ogan, unknown to the Turkish public before the polls, had 5.2 percent support in the election, backed by the newly formed ultra-nationalist ATA coalition, led by veteran Umit Ozdag Victory party leader. The right politician. The alliance secured a 2.4 percent share.
With results like this, the nationalist candidate and the coalition were likely kingmakers after the first round – until their most recent fallout, that is.
Analysts said some of their votes came from supporters of fourth candidate Muhalem Ince, who withdrew from the race just days before the first round of voting, and others who disliked Erdogan and Kilidaro. Gru young man.
Mesut Yegan, a professor of sociology at Istanbul’s Sehir University, said there is a group of voters who do not want to see any of the main contenders for the presidency and are unimpressed by the mainstream parties in Turkey today.
“Many of them have secular sensitivities and as such, they oppose the conservative religion-based politics pursued by Erdogan and his Awami League,” Yegen told Al Jazeera.
He added that the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party’s support for Kilicdaroglu and the cooperation between the two parties also disturbed the group.
Organ, an international relations scholar, entered parliament in 2011 with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the closest ally of Erdogan and his party today, but launched a leadership campaign in 2015. Dismissed after failure.
Since then, he has stayed out of politics until he was named a presidential candidate through a deal with Ozdag.
Meanwhile, international relations professor Ozdag, a former deputy leader of the MHP, later held the same position in the Kilicdaroglu coalition’s IYI party before being fired and forming the Victory Party in 2021.
In a country battered by its worst economic crisis in decades, the party has used ultra-nationalist rhetoric to win public support and support burgeoning anti-refugee sentiment among struggling Turks.
extreme nationalist platform
According to political analyst and author Etyen Mahcupyan, Ogun does not have a significant voter base ahead of the polls, and if he disagrees with Ozdag’s candidacy, the latter will find another contender.
“Ogan’s name may only be meaningful to those in narrow nationalist political and academic circles, but Ozdag and the Victory Party have actually built a voter base,” Mahcupyan told Al Jazeera.
The platform of Ogun and Ozdag has been strongly opposed by Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AK Party).
Their agenda revolves around a pledge to return the country’s millions of refugees to their homes and harsh language against “terrorist” groups — and what they allege is corruption and nepotism in the government.
However, in an unexpected twist on May 22, Ogun supported Erdogan in a run-off vote, leading to the end of the ATA alliance on the same day.
Ogun told a televised news conference that “stability” had played a big role in his decision, noting that Erdogan’s coalition had won a parliamentary majority in May 14 polls. The politician did not reveal any promises Erdogan might have made to stand with him.
“It’s important for the stability of the country that the parliamentary and presidential majorities come from the same coalition,” Ogan said, asking those who voted for him to back the sitting president in the second round.
Ozdag disagreed and said Augen’s position was his own. Two days later, Ozdag strongly supported Kilicdaroglu at a joint news conference after the two politicians signed a memorandum of understanding.
The deal includes strong statements about repatriating Turkish refugees within a year, fighting corruption, nepotism and “terror” and protecting Turkey’s national unity.
The two-month-old ATA coalition could have played a pivotal role in the vote, but individual agendas led to its downfall, Mahcupyan said.
“Ogan looks like he’s thinking about his personal career without worrying about any future voter support, while deciding to return to the MHP and continue politics there. Perhaps he sees himself as the party’s next leader,” he said. explain.
“However, the Victory Party has developed its own organization and amassed a voter base as an opposition party,” the analyst continued.
“Umit Ozdag has set goals for his party and wants it to survive the polls, so he has to stand with the opposition in line with what the party has established until today .”
A big question a day before the crucial vote is what effect such a split in a potential “kingmaker” coalition will have on the outcome of the runoff.
Yegen said an overwhelming majority of Zafer party voters would back Kilidaroglu after he struck a deal with Ozdag and after the main opposition candidate took a position that appealed to them over the past two weeks.
Other voters in Organ could respond in three different ways in the second round, he added. “Some will lean towards Erdogan, others will go in the direction of Kilidaroglu, while the rest will not go to the ballot box,” Yegen said.
Mahcupyan noted that most of those who voted for Ogan have no emotional connection to him. “They voted for him because they wanted a third way that was different from the other two candidates,” he said.