Istanbul, Türkiye – After months of campaigning with two parties, four presidential candidates and a dizzying electoral coalition lineup, Turkish voters headed to the polls again Sunday to make a crucial choice between two people.
The presidential runoff between incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and opposition leader Kemal Kilidaroglu marks the final day of what is widely described as the most important election in Turkey’s recent history. time.
The election period, which officially began on March 18, has seen numerous twists and turns, most notably Erdogan confounding opinion poll predictions to end the election ahead of Kilidaroglu but finish with a 10-point victory in the first round. Narrowly missed out on his third presidential term.
Since the first vote on May 14 – to coincide with parliamentary elections in which Erdogan’s party and its allies won 323 of the 600 seats – the campaign has scaled back, with both candidates dropping previous mass gatherings.
Erdogan was encouraged by his performance in the first round, when he received 49.52 percent of the vote to Kilicdaroglu’s 44.88 percent.
“Tomorrow, let’s go vote together for Great Turkey Victory,” he tweeted on Saturday. “Let us respond even more strongly this time to the will expressed in parliament on May 14 to the presidency. Let us start the Turkish century with our votes.”
In addition to extending his 20-year rule by another five years, Erdogan’s victory will allow him to lead the country to its centenary in October.
The president later attended a ceremony in Istanbul marking the first anniversary of the 1960 coup that led to the execution of Prime Minister Adnan Menderez, whom Erdogan has often identified with.
Meanwhile, Kilidaroglu has shifted to a more nationalist since the first round after a strong showing by right-wing voters gave the third-ranked nationalist presidential candidate, Sinan Ogun, more than 5% of the vote. The tone of the color.
“Whatever your views or lifestyle; I call on all of us. This is the last exit. Let people who love their country vote!” Kilicdaroglu said in a message sent on Saturday.
In his last public appearance, the opposition leader told a family support meeting in Ankara that he would extend social security payments. “I will live like you, I will not live in a palace,” he vowed. “I’ll live like you and solve your problems.”
As in the first round, Turkish citizens living abroad voted before Election Day. Some 1.9 million people cast ballots in 73 countries and at border crossings, with ballot boxes kept open until polls closed in Turkey.
Over the past two weeks, more than 47,500 voters aged 18 and over added to the electorate, bringing Turkey’s electorate to almost 60.8 million.
Some 192,000 ballot boxes in 87 constituencies are open between 8am and 5pm (05:00-14:00 GMT).
Narrow the election down to a choice between two candidates, both of whom have attracted the support of first-round contenders.
Earlier this week, No. 3-ranked Ogun backed Erdogan’s candidacy, while party leaders in Ogun’s electoral coalition backed Kilidaroglu instead.
Foremost among the latter is Umit Ozdag — like Ogan, a far-right nationalist whose Victory party claims its anti-immigration stance calls for the deportation of refugees.
By accepting Ozdag’s support and turning to nationalist rhetoric, Kilidaroglu risks alienating Kurdish voters who backed him in the first round, said Burke Essen, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Sabanci University. .
“I’m not sure Kilicdaroglu will be able to maintain such high support in the Kurdish-majority southeastern province after Umit Ozdag’s backing,” he said. “I think it’s going to have some sort of reaction in the region… Ozdag’s support comes at a huge cost.”
The first round also showed that voters’ decisions were not overly influenced by an economic crisis where inflation was rampant, said Emre Pekel, European director of the Eurasia Group.
Instead, Erdogan has shifted the debate from the economy to issues such as family values and security — smearing the opposition as supporters of terrorism and LGBTQ rights.
“We can say with certainty that despite Turkey’s worst economic problems since the 2001 financial crisis, identity politics dominated the election campaign,” he said.
“It’s huge, you can’t stress that enough.”
The February earthquake, which killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey, is also expected to play a big role in depressing Erdogan’s vote, with critics focusing on what the president himself has acknowledged was the government’s blunders in responding to the disaster.
But in eight of the 11 southern provinces affected by the quake, Erdogan defeated Kilicdaroglu in the first round, performing best in Kahramanmaras, where he took 71.9 percent of the vote.
While acknowledging Kilicdaroglu’s achievements in consolidating and expanding his base, analysts say he has failed to secure Erdogan’s support.
“The challenge is to get a bigger share of the conservative and center-right electorate who make up the majority in Turkey, who make up 60% to 65% of the electorate,” Peker said.
Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey Studies Program at the Washington Institute, added that voters found Kilicdaroglu’s “unattractive”.
“He can’t get voters to say ‘I can imagine a country run better by Kilicdaroglu and I’ll vote for him’.”