The Turkish presidential elections for a second round

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Türkiye began preparing Monday for the first run-off in the presidential elections, after a fierce electoral contest that saw President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan advance his secular rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, without succeeding in securing enough votes to confirm his victory in the first round.

Erdoğan appeared victorious when he appeared in front of a large crowd of his supporters shortly after midnight to announce himself his readiness to run for a second round of presidential elections.

The near-complete results of Türkiye’s most important election in the post-Ottoman era showed that Erdoğan, who has tightened his grip on power since 2003 and was undefeated in more than 10 national elections, narrowly missed the required 50% plus 1 vote.

“I believe from the bottom of my heart that we will continue to serve our people in the next five years,” he said to loud cheers.

He also announced that his ruling party won a clear majority in parliament.

The official Turkish Anadolu News Agency reported that the 69-year-old president won 49.4% of the vote, while Kılıçdaroğlu got 45.0%.

The second round of presidential elections, for the first time in the Turkish history is scheduled to be held on May 28.

The Kılıçdaroğlu camp had initially objected to the results of the counting of votes and claimed that it was in the lead.

But Kılıçdaroğlu, despite the disappointment with the results after leading the polls before the elections, vowed to defeat Erdoğan in the second round.

“The will to change in society is higher than 50%,” the head of the Republican People’s Party told reporters.

Turnout is expected to reach 90% in the elections, which are seen as a referendum on Türkiye’s longest-ruling leader and his Islamist-rooted party.

Erdoğan has led Türkiye, with a population of 85 million, through one of its most transformative and divided eras.

The large country has grown into a heavy military and geopolitical force playing roles in conflicts stretching from Syria to Ukraine.

Erdoğan occupied a prominent position throughout conservative Türkiye, which witnessed a development boom during his rule.

Religious voters are also grateful to him for removing restrictions on the veil and opening more Islamic schools.

Erdoğan’s first decade of economic recovery and warming relations with Europe was followed by a second decade filled with social and political upheaval.

He responded to a failed coup attempt in 2016 with widespread purges that sent chills through Turkish society and made him an increasingly uncomfortable partner for the West.

The emergence of Kılıçdaroğlu and his six-party opposition coalition, the kind of broad coalition Erdoğan has excelled in building throughout his political career, gives foreign allies and Turkish voters a clear alternative.

However, the run-off could give Erdoğan in two weeks time to regroup.

Yet he will continue to be haunted by the worst economic crisis Türkiye has ever seen in his tenure, and worry about his government’s faltering response to the February 6th earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people.

“We all longed for democracy,” Kılıçdaroğlu said after casting his vote in the elections in Ankara.

“You will see, Allah’s willing, that spring will come to this country,” he added.

Kılıçdaroğlu leads the Republican People’s Party, which was established by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Türkiye.

The number of registered voters in Türkiye is 64 million, who had to choose members of their parliament also throughout this country, which has a population of 85 million, and traditionally witnesses a turnout.

During the previous presidential elections that took place in 2018, Erdogan won the first round after receiving more than 52.5% of the vote.

Therefore, the possibility of organizing a second round on May 28 in a ballot will constitute a setback for him.

Pre-election polls indicated that Kılıçdaroğlu would win the votes of young people, who make up about 10% of the electorate, by a margin of error of two to one.

Erdoğan’s campaign has become increasingly aimed at his core supporters as elections approach.

He has described the opposition as “pro-LGBT” that takes its orders from outlawed Kurdish militants and is funded by the West.

He also tried to win over government workers by giving them massive pay increases in the months leading up to the elections.

Now much attention will focus on Sinan Oğan, the third presidential candidate turned kingmaker with 5% of the vote.

“We won’t say whether we will support this or that candidate,” Oğan said Sunday, adding, “We’ll consult with their representatives and then decide”.

In turn, Kılıçdaroğlu pledged to win him in the second round of the presidential elections, after the almost complete results showed that none of the candidates achieved the required 50% plus vote.

“If it is our nation’s decision to hold a second round, we will definitely win it,” the Republican People’s Party chief told reporters, adding that “the will for change in society is higher than 50%”.

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