- Erdogan has the advantage after winning the first round
- Challenger Kilicdaroglu trails him by nearly five points
- Erdogan’s strong showing has defied opinion polls and hurt the mood of the opposition
- The Nationalist vote split with differing support
- Erdogan looks forward to the third decade of rule, and critics fear the ‘one-man regime’
ANKARA (Reuters) – Turks were voting on Sunday in a presidential run-off that could see Tayyip Erdogan extend his rule into a third decade and continue Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian approach, aggressive foreign policy and unorthodox economic governance.
Erdogan, 69, defied the polls and held a comfortable lead of almost five points over rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the first round on May 14. With dire consequences for Türkiye itself and global geopolitics.
His unexpectedly strong performance amid a deepening cost of living crisis, and his victory in the parliamentary elections for a coalition of the conservative Justice and Development Party, the MHP and others, buoyed the veteran activist who said a vote for him was a vote for stability.
The election will determine not only who leads Turkey, a NATO member of 85 million people, but also how it is governed, where its economy heads after its currency has fallen to a tenth of its value against the dollar in a decade, and the shape of its foreign policy, which has made Turkey is angering the West by developing relations with Russia and the Gulf states.
In the Kurdish-majority southeast city of Diyarbakir, retired Farouk Jijel, 54, said he voted for Erdogan as he did two weeks ago.
“It is important for Turkey’s future that the president and parliament, where he has a majority, work together under one roof. So I voted for Erdogan again for stability,” he said.
Housewife Canan Tennis, 34, said she voted for Kilicdaroglu, who on May 14 garnered nearly 72% support in the city – the main pro-Kurdish opposition party stronghold.
“Enough is enough. Change is necessary to overcome the economic crisis and the problems Turkey is facing, so I voted for Kilicdaroglu again. We are optimistic and determined,” she said.
Voting started at 8 am (0500 GMT) and will end at 5 pm (1400 GMT). The result was expected to start showing by early evening.
Kilicdaroglu, 74, is the candidate of the opposition coalition of six parties, and leads the Republican People’s Party, which was established by Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. His camp struggled to regain momentum after shocking Erdogan in the first round.
The primary election showed more support than expected for nationalism – a powerful force in Turkish politics that has been intensified by years of fighting with Kurdish militants, an attempted coup in 2016 and an influx of millions of refugees from Syria since the war there began. 2011.
Turkey is the world’s largest refugee-hosting country, with about 5 million migrants, of which 3.3 million are Syrians, according to Interior Ministry data.
Third-place presidential candidate and hardline nationalist Sinan Ogan said he supports Erdogan on the basis of the principle of “continuous struggle (against terrorism)” in reference to pro-Kurdish groups. He got 5.17% of the vote.
Another nationalist, Umit Özdağ, leader of the anti-immigrant Victory Party (ZP), announced an agreement announcing the ZP’s support for Kilicdaroglu, after he said he would repatriate the migrants. The ZP won 2.2% of the vote in this month’s parliamentary elections.
A close Kunda poll in the run-off showed support for Erdogan at 52.7% and Kilicdaroglu at 47.3% after undecided voters were distributed. The survey was conducted from May 20-21, before Ogan and Ozdag revealed their agreement.
The other key is how Türkiye’s Kurds, who make up about a fifth of the population, will vote.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party endorsed Kilicdaroglu in the first round, but after leaning to the right to win nationalist votes, did not name him outright and urged voters to reject Erdogan’s “one-man regime”. in surface runoff.
The Turkish president did his best during his election campaign as he struggled to survive his toughest political test. He commands fierce loyalty from Turkish Turks who once felt disenfranchised in secular Turkey and his political career has survived failed coup and corruption scandals.
“Turkey has a long-standing democratic tradition and a long-standing nationalist tradition, and it’s clearly the nationalist tradition that is winning out at the moment,” said Nicholas Danforth, a Turkish historian and non-historian of Turkey. “Erdogan mixed religious and national pride, presenting voters with an aggressive, anti-elitist streak.” – Resident fellow at the ELIAMEP think tank.
“More Erdogan means more Erdogan. People know who he is and what his vision for the country is, and many of them seem to agree with it.”
Erdoğan has firmly controlled most of Turkey’s institutions and the fringes of liberals and critics. Human Rights Watch said, in its World Report 2022, that Erdogan’s government has restored Turkey’s human rights record for decades.
However, if the Turks overthrow Erdogan, it will be largely because they have seen their prosperity, equality, and ability to meet basic needs, with inflation rising to 85% in October 2022.
Kilicdaroglu, a former civil servant, has vowed to roll back many of the sweeping changes Erdogan made to Turkey’s domestic, foreign and economic policies.
It will also return to a parliamentary system of government, from Erdogan’s executive presidential system, which was narrowly passed in a 2017 referendum.
Additional reporting by Jonathan Spicer in Istanbul. Written by Alexandra Hudson. Editing by Jonathan Spicer, Nick McPhee and Kim Coghill
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