Both candidates in Turkey’s presidential race are certain that they are capable of winning, thus a run-off appears to be in the cards. Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared from the balcony of his party headquarters that he was confident he would rule for another five years after 20 years in office.
The pieces seemed to be in place for his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu to triumph. He trails the president in the first round, however, due to incomplete results.
Additionally, Mr. Erdogan’s coalition might be on track to win a parliamentary majority. The many opposition groups in Turkey have been working together for months in an effort to unseat the president, who has drastically increased his power after a failed coup attempt against him in 2016.
Mr. Kilicdaroglu has pledged to reinvigorate Turkish democracy and relations with its NATO partners, the election is being eagerly monitored in the West. On the other hand, President Erdogan’s Islamist-based administration has said that the West is attempting to overthrow him.
In the wee hours of Monday, Mr. Kilicdaroglu appeared less assured than before when he stood on a stage at the Ankara headquarters of his party.
Here are some reports from the last few weeks:
One of his campaign themes, “Everything will be all right,” was repeated by supporters outside the party offices, but they did not seem to believe it would.
The administration, he raged earlier, was trying to “block the will of the people” by repeatedly mounting challenges in strongholds of the opposition. The mayors of Istanbul and Ankara, two emerging stars in the party, reminded voters that Mr. Erdogan’s AK Party had previously employed this tactic.
They complimented a sizable group of opposition volunteers who stood watch over ballots to make sure nothing improper occurred with the voting.
As the leader of his Republican People’s Party, Mr. Kilicdaroglu, 74, has lost previous elections, but this time his message of removing the president’s excessive powers resonated.
The cost of living problem that Turkey has been experiencing with 44% inflation has only been made worse by Mr. Erdogan’s unconventional economic policies.
The Erdogan administration was then held accountable for a tardy rescue effort following the February twin earthquakes, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 50,000 people in 11 regions.
However, despite a very challenging few months, Turkey’s powerful president still seems to be in control. From the balcony he had previously used for victory, he addressed the crowd and said, “Even though the final results are not in, we are far ahead.”
The president looks to have defied many pollsters who predicted his adversary had the advantage and could even win outright without a run-off, whether or not he does take a lead into an anticipated run-off two weeks from now.
Unconfirmed results cited by the state news agency Anadolu indicate that Putin and his nationalist MHP may be headed for a majority in parliament.
His supporters made fun of the opposition’s allies for initially predicting that Mr. Kilicdaroglu would become the 13th Turkish president and then for progressively decreasing their predictions as the night went on.
The degree to which Turkish society has been divided is something that this outcome does corroborate, 100 years after Kemal Ataturk established the modern Turkish Republic. Mr. Kilicdaroglu concluded his campaign with a visit to Ataturk’s mausoleum in Ankara in the final hours before voting began.
Instead, President Erdogan opted to deliver a campaign speech at Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia as a highly symbolic gesture to his conservative and nationalist audience. The former Orthodox Cathedral was made into a museum by Ataturk, but in 2020 Mr. Erdogan converted it into a mosque.
Although the likely run-off is expected to be tight, it is uncertain what will happen to the 5% of votes that went to ultranationalist Sinan Ogan, the third-place finisher in the election.
He is aware that both leaders would try to court him and will inevitably impose strict requirements. Even if he does support either candidate, it is far from guaranteed that the first-round voters he recruited will do the same.