- Neither Erdogan nor his rival reached the 50% threshold
- Erdogan’s 20-year rule is on the line
- Second stage on 28th May
- Polls predicted a close contest, with Kilicdaroglu leading
ISTANBUL, May 14 (Reuters) – Neither Tayyip Erdogan nor rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu cleared the threshold for outright victory on Sunday, pushing Turkey to a second presidential election despite Erdogan doing better than expected in the battle to extend his 20-year rule.
With 96% of ballot boxes counted, Erdogan was leading with 49.44% and Kilicdaroğlu with 44.86%, according to state-owned news agency Anadolu.
But both sides disputed the figures, saying they were ahead and cautioning against any premature conclusions in a deeply polarized country at a political crossroads.
The vote, seen as a verdict on Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian path, would hand his ruling coalition a majority in parliament, giving him a chance at a May 28 runoff vote.
Pre-election polls indicated a very tight race, but gave Kilicdaroglu, who heads a six-party coalition, a slight lead. Two polls on Friday also showed him above the 50% mark.
The presidential vote will determine not only who leads NATO-member Turkey of 85 million people, but also whether it will return to a more secular, democratic path; how it will deal with its acute cost-of-living crisis; and manage key relationships with Russia, the Middle East and the West.
“Erdogan will have an advantage in the second poll after his coalition performs better than the opposition coalition. I expect a lot of currency volatility in the next two weeks,” said Hakan Akbas, managing director of political consultancy Strategic Advisory Services. .
A separate vote count released by ANKA showed 99% of ballot boxes counted, with Erdogan getting 49.26% and Kilicdaroglu 45.04%.
Still, the opposition said Erdogan’s side was delaying the full results by filing objections while officials issued results in an order that artificially inflated Erdogan’s tally.
Kilicdaroglu, in his first appearance after midnight, said Erdogan’s party was “destroying the will of Turkey” by objecting to the 1,000 ballot box count. “You cannot stop what happens with objections. We will never let this happen,” he said.
A senior official from the opposition coalition said: “It seems unlikely that he will win the first round. But our data indicates that Kilicdaroglu will take the lead.”
Meanwhile, supporters from both sides celebrated.
Thousands of Erdogan supporters gathered at the party’s headquarters in Ankara, blasting party songs from loudspeakers and waving flags and Erdogan posters. Some danced in the street.
“We know it’s not exactly a celebration yet, but we hope to celebrate his victory soon. Erdogan is the best leader we’ve had for this country and we love him,” said Yalcin Yildirim, 39, a textile factory owner.
He said Erdogan raised Turkey’s value in the world arena.
Fayez Balcu, 23, a cyber security engineer, said: “We accept that the economy is not in good shape now, but Erdogan will improve it.”
Supporters waved flags and beat drums of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk at the CHP party headquarters in Kıldıröğlu.
May 28 runoff
The choice of Turkey’s next president is one of the most important political decisions in the country’s 100-year history and will reverberate far beyond Turkey’s borders.
A defeat for Erdogan, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most important allies, would worry the Kremlin but comfort the Biden administration and many European and Middle Eastern leaders who have had troubled relations with Erdogan.
Asked by a reporter if he had any comment on the Turkish election and the dispute between the two sides over early results, US President Joe Biden said: “Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?”
Turkey’s long-serving leader has turned NATO member and Europe’s second-largest country into a global player, modernizing it with mega projects like new bridges and airports, and building an arms industry sought after by foreign nations.
But his erratic economic policy of low interest rates, a cost-of-living crisis and inflation, made him the target of voter ire. His government’s slow response to a devastating earthquake in southeastern Turkey that killed 50,000 people added to voters’ dismay.
Kilicdaroglu has pledged to restore democracy after years of state repression, return to orthodox economic policies, empower institutions that have lost autonomy under Erdogan’s tight grip, and rebuild fragile ties with the West.
If the opposition wins, thousands of political prisoners and activists could be released.
Critics fear that Erdogan will rule even more autocratically if he wins another term. The 69-year-old president, the oldest of a dozen electoral victories, says he values democracy.
A third nationalist presidential candidate, Sinan Ogan, received 5.3% of the vote. Who he decides to support in the next round could be crucial.
Turks also voted for a new parliament. Erdogan’s People’s Coalition, which includes the Islamist-rooted AKP and the nationalist MHP and others, fared better than expected and edged toward a majority.
With 93% of the votes counted, Erdogan’s coalition would win 324 seats in the 600-seat parliament. Kilicdaroğlu’s National Alliance of six opposition parties, including his Secular Republican Party (CHP), founded by Atatürk, is guaranteed 211 seats.
The Labor and Freedom Alliance, led by the pro-Kurdish Green Left party, won 65 seats.
Written by Alexandra Hudson Editing by Frances Kerry
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