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Erdogan ascendant as Turkey heads for historic run-off

By AFP - May 16,2023 - Last updated at May 16,2023

ISTANBUL — Turkey on Monday woke up to the prospect of its first presidential run-off vote after conservative President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confounded pollsters and his secular rival to win the first round of the country’s pivotal election.

Pre-election opinion polls had suggested Erdogan risked a first national election defeat to his main challenger’s disparate six-party alliance, in a vote seen as the most important in the Muslim-majority nation’s post-Ottoman history.

But the 69-year-old defied expectations in Sunday’s ballot and could extend his two-decade grip on power on May 28, after neither he nor Kemal Kilicdaroglu reached the 50 per cent threshold for a first-round victory.

With almost all ballots counted on Monday morning, Erdogan led with 49.42 per cent of the vote to Kilicdaroglu’s 44.95 per cent, according to official figures provided by state news agency Anadolu.

A nationalist third candidate, Sinan Ogan, emerged as the kingmaker after picking up 5 per cent, but has yet to come out for either frontrunner.

Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its far-right allies were also close to an outright majority in Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

The lira fell against the euro as traders digested with apprehension the increased likelihood of Erdogan’s unconventional economic policies continuing.

The Borsa Istanbul index opened sharply in the red on Monday and was down by almost 4.5 per cent at around 11:00am (0800 GMT).


 ‘It’s going to be close’ 


The result was a crushing disappointment for Kilicdaroglu and his Republican People’s Party (CHP) supporters.

An overcast dawn greeted Istanbul residents on Monday, a symbolic reflection of the opposition’s gloomier outlook but opinions were divided as to the outcome of Turkey’s unprecedented run-off.

“Erdogan is going to win. He’s a real leader. The Turkish people trust him and he has a vision for Turkey,” Hamdi Kurumahmut told AFP in Istanbul.

“Of course there are things that need to be improved, on the economy, education or the refugee policy. But we know he’s the one who can sort all that out,” added the 40-year-old tourism sector worker.

Betul Yilmaz, 26, wanted to keep the faith in a Kilicdaroglu victory if he sealed an alliance with Ogan. “But it’s going to be close,” the young woman said..

Pro-government daily Sabah called Erdogan’s unexpectedly strong performance a “superb success”.

Kilicdaroglu, who has a history of defeats to pro-Erdogan candidates, only emerged as the opposition’s candidate after a year of bitter debate between the alliance’s disparate members, who span Turkey’s cultural and religious divides.

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