Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has secured a comfortable lead in the first round of the presidential election, while his rival faces the uphill task of preventing him from extending his rule for a third decade in the May 28 run-off.
Turkish assets fell after news that Erdoğan had secured just under the 50% needed to avoid a run-off in a presidential election seen as a referendum on his authoritarian rule.
It seems that the People’s Alliance led by Erdoğan, which includes the Justice and Development Party with Islamic roots and other nationalist parties, is about to win a majority in the new parliament by obtaining 321 seats out of 600 seats, which enhances Erdoğan’s chances in the presidential run-off.
“The winner is undoubtedly our country,” Erdoğan said in a speech to cheering supporters at the headquarters of the ruling Justice and Development Party in the capital, Ankara, Sunday night.
Ahmet Yener, head of the Supreme Election Commission, told reporters that with most votes counted in the presidential election, Erdoğan received 49.51% and his main rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu received 44.88%, and participation rate was 88.8%.
Sinan Oğan, the nationalist candidate who finished third in the Turkish presidential election, said in an interview with Reuters that he could only support Kılıçdaroğlu in the run-off if he agreed not to make concessions to a pro-Kurdish party, which is in Erdoğan’s favor.
That party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, supports Kılıçdaroğlu, but it’s accused of having ties with Kurdish militants, as the party denies this.
Kılıçdaroğlu needs the 2.8 million votes that Oğan got in the first round if he wants to beat Erdoğan.
Pre-election polls showed Erdoğan, 69, trailing Kılıçdaroğlu.
However, the results indicate that Erdoğan and his party succeeded in mobilizing conservative voters despite the cost of living crisis and high inflation.
Kılıçdaroğlu, representative of the six-party opposition alliance, pledged to win the run-off and accused Erdoğan’s party of interfering in counting and announcing the results, calling on his supporters to be patient, but they seemed frustrated on Monday.
By contrast, Erdoğan’s supporters appeared elated as the results were counted.
Extending Erdoğan’s rule for another five years would worry civil rights activists who are calling for reforms to contain the damage they say he has done to democracy, however Erdoğan expressed his respect for democracy.
An opposition victory could pave the way for the release of thousands of activists and political prisoners.
Turkish stocks fell, the lira stabilized near a two-month low, dollar sovereign bonds fell and the cost of insuring exposure to the country’s debt rose.
Some analysts expressed concern about the uncertainty and diminishing chances of a return to traditional economic policy.
The election is being watched closely in Europe, Washington and Moscow, as well as across the region, where Erdoğan has sought to cement his country’s influence while cementing ties with Russia, straining its ties with its traditional ally the United States.
Erdoğan is one of the main allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his strong performance in the elections may strengthen the Kremlin’s position, but it will anger the administration of US President Joe Biden and many European and Middle Eastern leaders whose relations with Erdoğan have been strained.
White House spokesman John Kirby said today, Monday, that US President Joe Biden looks forward to working with whoever wins the Turkish elections.
The Kremlin expected Russia’s cooperation with Türkiye to continue and increase, regardless of the winner.
Analysts said that Middle Eastern governments prefer Erdoğan’s continuity rather than electing a new president after his strong performance in the elections, as part of the accepted status quo in a turbulent region.
The opposition expected to benefit from voters’ anger over economic problems, after an unconventional policy represented in cutting interest rates led to a crisis in the lira and high inflation.
The government’s slow response to earthquakes, which killed 50,000 people in February 6th, was also expected to affect voters.
Kılıçdaroğlu, 74, vows to restore democracy after years of government repression, return to traditional economic policies, empower institutions that lost their independence under Erdoğan and rebuild weak relations with the West.
The uncertainty in the political scene is expected to affect the financial markets during the next two weeks.
The currency recorded 19.67 against the dollar, after reaching 19.70 in previous transactions, which is its weakest level since it recorded 19.80 last March.
The cost of insuring a Turkish default on its sovereign debt rose to a six-month high, jumping 105 basis points from Friday’s levels to 597 basis points, according to Standard & Poor’s Global Market Intelligence.