Turkey’s historic election: Erdoğan faces runoff with rival Kılıçdaroğlu

Turkey’s historic election: Turkey held its most important election in a century on Sunday, as millions of voters cast their ballots to decide the fate of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his main challenger Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. The election marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the secular Turkish republic by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1923, and was seen as a referendum on two competing visions for the country’s future.

Erdoğan’s Turkish century

Erdoğan, who has ruled Turkey for 20 years, campaigned on a platform of making Turkey stronger and more independent, especially in the defense sector. He touted his achievements in building domestically-manufactured weapons, such as the Togg electric car, the “Kaan” fighter jet and Anadolu, the country’s first aircraft carrier. He also vowed to continue his push for a more religiously conservative nation, often clashing with the LGBTQ+ community and secularists. He wrapped up his campaign on Saturday night in Hagia Sophia, the former Byzantine church that he controversially converted back into a mosque last year.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s return to democracy

Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was backed by a coalition of six parties that spanned the political spectrum, from nationalists to Kurds. He promised to restore democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Turkey, which he said had been eroded by Erdoğan’s authoritarianism. He also pledged to reverse Erdoğan’s executive presidency, which gave him sweeping powers, and return power to parliament. He also vowed to revive Turkey’s economy, which has been plagued by high inflation, unemployment and debt. He criticized Erdoğan’s foreign policy, accusing him of alienating Turkey’s Western allies and cozying up to Russia.

The results

According to preliminary results based on nearly 90% of ballot boxes counted, neither candidate managed to secure more than 50% of the vote, meaning a runoff will be held on May 28. Erdoğan received 48.7% of the vote, while Kılıçdaroğlu received 47.9%. The remaining votes went to minor candidates. The results were closer than expected, as most polls had given Erdoğan a slight edge over Kılıçdaroğlu. Both candidates claimed victory and urged their supporters to remain calm and vigilant until the final results are announced.

The implications

The runoff will be a crucial test for both candidates, who will have to mobilize their bases and woo undecided voters. Erdoğan will face an uphill battle to regain his popularity and legitimacy, as he has lost his parliamentary majority and faces allegations of electoral fraud and interference. Kılıçdaroğlu will have to maintain his unity with his diverse allies and convince more voters that he can offer a viable alternative to Erdoğan’s rule. The outcome of the runoff will have significant implications for Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy, as well as its relations with its neighbors and allies.

The reactions

The international community has expressed interest and concern over Turkey’s historic election, which could determine the direction of a key regional power and NATO member. The European Union, which has been at odds with Erdoğan over human rights and migration issues, said it hoped for a “credible” electoral process and a “constructive” dialogue with Turkey after the election. The United States, which has also clashed with Erdoğan over Syria and Russia, said it looked forward to working with “whoever emerges as the victor” in Turkey. Russia, which has developed closer ties with Erdoğan in recent years, said it respected the choice of the Turkish people and hoped for continued cooperation with Turkey.

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