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 rebounded after trading resumed, with the index 2.5% lower in late afternoon trade compared to Friday’s market.
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.
The head of the Supreme Election Board, Ahmet Yener, said that preliminary results showed Erdogan with 49.5% of the vote, Kılıkdaroğlu with 44.9% and third candidate Sinan Öğan with 5.2%.
Yener said the remaining uncounted votes were not enough to carry Erdogan to an outright victory, even if they were all overturned for him. In the 2018 presidential election, Erdogan won the first round with more than 52% of the vote.
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.
Kilicdaroglu sounded optimistic, tweeting at the time the runoff was announced: “Don’t lose hope….we will rise together and win this election.”
Kilicdaroglu, 74, 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 attempt to woo voters hard-hit by inflation, he increased wages and pensions and subsidized electricity and gas bills, while showcasing 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.
Almost 89% of eligible voters in Turkey voted and more than half of foreign voters went to the ballot box. 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.
Pilkinsoy reported from Istanbul. Associated Press writer Sinar Kiper contributed from Bodrum, Turkey.
“Total coffee junkie. Tv ninja. Unapologetic problem solver. Beer expert.”