“Turkish Election Heads for Runoff as Opposition Challenges Erdoğan’s Dominance


In a tightly contested election in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan faced his most significant challenge to leadership in two decades as the vote appeared to be heading towards a runoff. Despite the official vote count not yet being finalized, Erdoğan prematurely claimed victory, while his rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, expressed confidence in a second round of voting.

Speaking to his jubilant supporters, Erdoğan declared that the nation’s choice was clearly in favor of him, even though the supreme election council, the YSK, had stated that the count was not yet complete. Erdoğan projected an outright win in the presidential election, believing he would secure over 50% of the vote and avoid a runoff.

In contrast, Kılıçdaroğlu responded more cautiously, stating that despite Erdoğan’s lies and attacks, the desired outcome had not been achieved. He expressed certainty in winning the election in the second round and highlighted the need for a societal change that exceeded 50%. Kılıçdaroğlu criticized the government’s objections and delays in inputting opposition votes into the system, emphasizing that the will of the people should not be blocked.

Early figures from Turkey’s election board showed Erdoğan leading with 49.49% of the votes, while Kılıçdaroğlu received 44.49%. The remaining uncounted votes held the potential to alter the final outcome.

Throughout the election cycle, misinformation and deepfake videos had been circulating, contributing to the climate of uncertainty. Reports surfaced about the government demanding repeated recounts in areas likely to favor Kılıçdaroğlu, which led to frustration among opposition figures. The YSK aimed to address concerns about early results published by the state news agency, Anadolu, which differed from the official count provided by the YSK.

The parliamentary and presidential elections in Turkey evolved into a referendum on Erdoğan’s rule, with an energized opposition coalition seeking to topple him after his two-decade dominance. If no candidate secures 50% of the vote in the presidential election, a runoff between the top two candidates will be held on May 28. The presence of an ultra-nationalist candidate, Sinan Oğan, who was projected to receive around 5% of the vote, added complexity to the race.

The six-party opposition coalition led by Kılıçdaroğlu aimed to secure a parliamentary majority and the presidency, enabling them to implement significant reforms and restore parliamentary democracy. If successful, it would be a rare instance of a populist leader being democratically unseated by the public.

Kılıçdaroğlu pledged to promote inclusivity, move away from Erdoğan’s control over public institutions and media, and foster a less combative style of politics. He also expressed intentions to deport millions of Syrian and Afghan refugees seeking refuge in Turkey. The election witnessed voters expressing their concerns over the cost of living crisis and the government’s response to recent deadly earthquakes.

The outcome of the Turkish election remains uncertain, as the runoff may determine the next leader and potentially reshape the country’s political landscape.