Updated May 15, 2023, 9:16am EDT

‘A battle for Turkey’s future’: Analysts point to election risks ahead of runoff vote

A woman votes at a polling station during the presidential and parliamentary elections, in Istanbul, Turkey May 14, 2023. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

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The News

Turkey will hold a runoff election on May 28 after neither presidential candidate secured more than 50% of the vote in Sunday's tightly-fought election.

The incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received 49.5% of the vote, while his challenger Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu trailed closely behind with just under 45%.

The runoff ballot marks an unprecedented moment in the battle for the Turkish presidency, a position Erdoğan has occupied for more than 20 years.

Here’s some key analysis on the crucial election in the NATO member state.

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Zeit Online

Erdoğan has performed “suspiciously well,” wrote Michael Thumann, reporting from Istanbul for German-language outlet Zeit Online. The preliminary results run counter to polls that suggested the opposition would lead. There are also fears of voter suppression: Turkish counties that traditionally vote for Kılıçdaroğlu‘s Republican People’s Party (CHP) have had their ballot counts delayed. “If Recep Tayyip Erdoğan triumphs again, there might not be much left of Turkish democracy,” Thumann said.

Middle East Eye

Erdoğan is performing as his party expected him to, Ragip Soylu reported for the Middle East Eye. Internal polling conducted by Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) put the incumbent ahead, counter to public polls that suggested the opposite.

Erdoğan is likely to be bolstered in runoff voting by supporters of Sinan Ogan, an ultranationalist candidate who received more than 5% of the vote Sunday, Soylu wrote. “It is likely these voters will return to Erdoğan’s camp in the runoff, since he most represents the Turkish nationalist side of the country in a binary choice with Kılıçdaroğlu.”

Financial Times

The opposition will need to do some soul-searching in the wake of Erdoğan’s better-than-anticipated showing Sunday, Adam Samson and Ayla Jean Yackley said in the Financial Times. Analysts told the FT that a runoff would be an uphill battle for Kılıçdaroğlu’s coalition, hampered too by a long-standing aversion to coalition governments in Turkey.

Sunday’s “outcome still presents Kılıçdaroğlu with one of the worst-case scenarios ahead of an election that has been portrayed by both main candidates as a battle for Turkey’s future,” Samson and Yackley wrote.


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