Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces a tough challenge from Kemal Kilicdaroglu in runoff elections today

Key Takeaways:

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces the toughest challenge to his rule
  • Turkey will elect a president today in the country's first-ever runoff elections
  • Erdogan, who bagged 49.52% in the first round, is up against united opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who polled 44.88% on May 14
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan faces a tough challenge from Kemal Kilicdaroglu in runoff Turkish elections
Second round of voting is underway in Turkey as President Erdogan faces a tough challenge from Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Pic Credit:- Canva

YEREVAN (CoinChapter.com) — Long-time Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing a critical political challenge from rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu as the country goes to polls in a runoff election. The election is seen as a test of Erdogan’s popularity and his ruling party’s grip on power.

Erdogan, who leads the Justice and Development Party (AKP), is hours away from either consolidating his rule over Turkey or losing his power completely. This is the first time he has faced a united front of several political parties. He also leads the “People’s Alliance” along with other conservative outfits.

The runoff election follows a first round of voting on May 14 in which no candidate secured an outright majority. Erdogan missed the 50% mark by a whisker, securing 49.52% of the votes. His closest rival, Kilicdaroglu, polled lower than expected, bagging 44.88%. 

However, the shocker came from a third candidate, Sinan Ogan. A former member of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Ogan received 5.17% of the total votes, thus playing a spoilsport for Erdogan. 

A fourth candidate, Muharrem İnce of the Homeland Party, took 0.43% of the votes. However, he had already withdrawn from the race before polls opened. 

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Does Kemal Kilicdaroglu stand a chance against Erdogan? 

Kemal Kilicdaroglu is the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the second-largest party in the Turkish Parliament. Last year, six opposition parties united to prevent Erdogan from getting reelected. 

In March 2023, after many rounds of negotiations, the group, who call themselves The Nation Alliance, elected Kilicdaroglu as the opposition’s Presidential candidate. 

Along with the CHP, other parties in the Alliance include Meral Akşener-led Iyi Paty, Temel Karamollaoglu’s conservative Felicity Party, and Gultekin Uysal’s Democrat Party. The Democracy and Progress Party, led by Ali Babacan, and the Future Party, chaired by Ahmet Davutoglu, are also included in the united opposition block. 

Before the first round, opinion polls had given him a comfortable lead against President Erdogan. However, while he succeeded in preventing Erdogan from winning, he performed much worse than expected. 

The second round will not be easy either. Sinan Ogan, the ultra-nationalist politician who bagged over 5% of the votes, has already endorsed Erdogan. If the Turkish President received Ogan’s share of votes, he can easily cross the 50% mark.

Ultra-nationalist politician Sinan Ogan, who received over 5% of the votes in the first round, has expressed support for Erdogan in the runoff Turkish elections.
Ultra-nationalist politician Sinan Ogan, who received over 5% of the votes in the first round, has expressed support for Erdogan in the runoff Turkish elections.

Moreover, since the last round, Kilicdaroglu has ramped up his anti-immigrant rhetoric. Hoping to impress Ogan’s voters, he has reiterated that he will send all Syrian refugees back once elected.

The move has caused a lot of discontent among many of his liberal voters. Many of those that supported him on May 14 may decide not to vote in the second round at all.

On the flip side, he remains a strong challenger to Erdogan. Many people can consider this the best chance to get rid of the Turkish President. Seeing victory so close could encourage them to support Kilicdaroglu, costing Erdogan his position. 

Also Read: Turkish Elections: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls his political rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, gay 

Turkish Elections: A Fight for democracy

The election has drawn significant attention both domestically and internationally. Many see it as a crucial moment for Turkey’s democracy and the direction of its political landscape. 

President Erdogan faces growing discontent among sections of the population, particularly over economic concerns. He has been a major face in Turkish politics since the 1990s.

He served as the Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998 but lost his position after being jailed for inciting religious hatred. His arrest gave a boost to his political career. 

In 2001, banking on his new-found popularity among nationalist, Islamist Turks, he founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Less than two years later, in March 2003, Erdogan become the Prime Minister after landslide victories in the Turkish general elections. 

He remained in office until 2014 when he was elected President of Turkey after amending the Constitution to consolidate powers under the presidency. Until then, the President was more of a titular figure, with the real power lying with the PM. 

Turkish President Erdogan caste his vote at the polling station as he hopes to retain his grip over the country.

Under Erdogan, Turkey has slipped into a total authoritarian rule. He has allegedly murdered critics and opponents, jailed journalists, and cracked down on any form of dessert. 

Throughout his time in office, Erdogan has implemented significant changes to the country’s political system, concentrating power in the presidency. Critics argue that these changes have eroded democratic institutions and undermined the rule of law.

The Turkish president’s confrontational style and polarizing rhetoric have also drawn criticism. He has been accused of suppressing dissent and cracking down on press freedom, with many journalists and activists facing arrests and trials.

Will Erdogan ensure fair elections? 

As voting takes place across the country, there are concerns about the fairness and transparency of the electoral process. Critics argue that the ruling party has exerted pressure on the media and restricted freedom of expression, potentially affecting the outcome.

International observers will closely monitor the election to assess its fairness and legitimacy. The European Union, in particular, has expressed concerns about the state of democracy and human rights in Turkey.

Regardless of the outcome, the runoff election signifies a critical juncture for Turkey’s political landscape. 

It has already reflected the deep divisions within society and the growing calls for change among the electorate. This is the first time Turkey is seeing runoff elections, a sign of President Erdogan’s diminishing influence. 

If Kemal Kilicdaroglu fails to defeat Erdogan yet again, it will spell the end of his political career. It is almost certain that the CHP will ask him to step down as the head of the party. As for Erdogan, losing the elections will be devastating. Will he lose in a fair election? The results will show. 

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