ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s presidential election Election officials said on Monday that incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan edged ahead of his main rival but fell short of an outright victory that would have extended his increasingly authoritarian rule into a third decade.
A May 28 runoff vote will determine whether the strategically located NATO country remains firmly in the president’s grip or can take a more democratic course as promised by his main rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu..
Erdogan has ruled for 20 yearsOpinion polls suggested the run could end, and criticism of the government’s response to the cost-of-living crisis and devastating February earthquake. Let’s redraw the electoral map.
Instead, Erdogan’s retreat was smaller than predicted — and with his coalition retaining its grip on parliament, he is now well-positioned to win a runoff.
The uncertainty sent the main Turkish stock market BIST-100 down more than 6% at the open Monday, prompting a temporary halt in trading. But stocks recovered some after trading resumed, and the index was 2.5% lower in the afternoon compared to Friday’s market close.
Western countries and foreign investors were particularly interested in Erdogan’s unorthodox leadership of the economy and his often mercurial but successful efforts to place Turkey at the center of several key diplomatic negotiations. At the crossroads between East and West, with the Black Sea and borders with Iran, Iraq and Syria, Turkey plays a key role in issues including the war in Syria, migration to Europe and Ukraine’s grain exports.and the expansion of NATO.
Preliminary results showed Erdoğan with 49.51%, Kılıkdaroğlu with 44.88% and third candidate Sinan Öğan with 5.17%, said the head of the Supreme Election Board, Ahmet Yener.
In the last presidential election in 2018, Erdoğan received 52.6% of the votes in the first round and won outright.
Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey as prime minister or president since 2003, portrayed Sunday’s vote as a victory for him and the country.
“The fact that the election results are not finalized does not change the fact that the nation has chosen us,” Erdogan, 69, told supporters early Monday morning.
He said he respects the country’s decision.
Kilikdaroglu sounded hopeful for a final victory.
“We will absolutely win the second round… and bring democracy,” said 74-year-old Kilicdaroglu, adding that Erdogan has now lost the faith of a nation demanding change. Klikdaroglu and his party have lost all previous presidential and parliamentary elections since taking over in 2010, but increased their votes this time.
Ogan, a right-wing candidate, did not say who he would support if the election went to a second round. He is believed to have gained support from nationalist voters who want a change after two decades under Erdogan, but distrust the governing ability of the six-party coalition led by Kilicdaroglu.
Election results showed the coalition led by Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party would retain a majority in the 600-seat parliament, although the assembly lost its power after a vote that gave the president additional legislative powers. In 2017.
Erdogan’s AKP and its allies won 321 seats in the National Assembly, while the opposition won 213, with the remaining 66 going to a pro-Kurdish coalition, according to preliminary results.
Howard Eisenstadt, an associate professor of Middle East history and politics at St. Lawrence University in New York, said those results could give Erdogan an advantage in a runoff because voters don’t want a “divided government.”
As in previous years, Erdogan led a highly divisive campaign. He portrayed Kilicdaroglu, who has the support of the country’s pro-Kurdish party, as colluding with “terrorists” and who supports “heterogeneous” LGBTQ rights. In an effort to woo voters hit hard by inflation, he boosted wages and pensions while touting Turkey’s domestic defense industry and infrastructure projects.
Kilicdaroglu, for his part, campaigned on promises to reverse crackdowns on free speech and other democratic setbacks.
But when the results came in, those elements didn’t seem to sway voters as expected: Turkey’s conservative core voted overwhelmingly for the ruling party, while Kıltaroğlu’s main opposition won most of the coastal provinces in the west and south. The pro-Kurdish green left party, YSP, won the Kurdish-majority provinces in the southeast.
Results reported by the state-run Anadolu Agency showed Erdogan’s party dominating the earthquake-hit region, winning 10 of 11 provinces in an area that traditionally supports the president. That’s despite his government’s slow response to the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people.
More than 64 million people, including overseas voters, were eligible to vote and nearly 89% voted. This year marks 100 years since Turkey was established as a republic – a modern secular state born from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
Voting in Turkey has traditionally been strong, despite years of government crackdowns on freedom of expression and assembly, particularly after a 2016 coup attempt. Erdogan blamed supporters of former ally cleric Fethullah Gulen for the failed coup and launched a large-scale crackdown on civil servants with alleged ties to Gulen and pro-Kurdish politicians.
Critics attribute the difficult cost-of-living crisis to the president’s tough style. The latest official figures put inflation down from around 86% to 44%. The cost of vegetables became a campaign issue for the opposition, which used the onion as its symbol.