By Elijah J. Magnier:
The final results of Turkey’s parliamentary and presidential elections have confirmed that a run-off will be held on 28 May. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the incumbent president, secured 49.51 per cent of the vote, a margin of less than half a per cent, or about four hundred thousand votes, out of fifty-eight million eligible voters. His main rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP), won 44.88 per cent of the vote, while ultra-nationalist candidate Sinan Ogan took 5.17 per cent. Although President Erdogan won the parliamentary elections, he fell short of a majority among the 600 members of parliament. However, he holds a significant number of seats (321 MPs), which gives him an advantage over the opposition to form a workable coalition and maintain a parliamentary majority by allying with parties with fewer seats and independent candidates. This parliamentary majority will have an impact on the outcome of the second round of the presidential election.
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Turkish officials and sources close to Erdogan exude confidence in his ability to secure a resounding victory in the run-off. Several vital factors work in Erdogan’s favour in the second round. First, he enjoys a commanding position in parliament, where his party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), have a parliamentary majority. Second, the opposition is far from cohesive and united, with a significant risk of fragmentation after the first round. Kilicdaroglu led a non-dominant coalition that was not widely expected to form a future government if he won the presidency. AKP officials argue that ‘the Turkish people do not want to vote for a multi-party alliance in a government that they believe will not achieve what the people want because of its ideological or organisational incompatibility, except for its agreement to try to defeat the current president’.
According to senior Turkish sources close to Erdogan, ‘the president should focus his efforts on Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, as he defeated Kilicdaroglu in the presidential election but not in the parliamentary vote’. It is believed that winning the presidential election in Istanbul often leads to victory in the overall race, as was the case for Erdogan in 1994-1998 when he was mayor of Istanbul. However, today’s presidential election results challenge this notion, as Erdogan was able to secure victories in rural areas, particularly in most of the southern provinces affected by this year’s earthquake. Erdogan’s ability to deliver on promises, especially in regions where the opposition lacks the parliamentary clout to deliver on promises of free gas and reconstruction, contributed to his success in these areas.
Sinan Ogan managed to cut into Erdogan’s vote share in Central Anatolia, particularly in Diyarbakir, the heart of the Kurdish region. Surprisingly, the anti-Kurdish far-right nationalist candidate won 1.2 per cent of the vote in this Kurdish province, where 72 per cent of the electorate voted against Erdogan’s opponent. This result in the Kurdish region highlights the influential role of foreign intervention, particularly by the US and the EU, in undermining Erdogan’s support. Kilicdaroglu would not have had the confidence to contest the elections without Kurdish support. The reality is that Kilicdaroglu won 35 per cent of the parliamentary vote. In contrast, the Kurds who voted for him in the presidential election did not support him in the parliamentary race. On the other hand, Erdogan secured 49 per cent of the parliamentary seats and the same percentage in the presidential election.
As Turkey prepares for the inevitable second round of its presidential election, a number of factors suggest that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is on course for a certain victory. Erdogan, who secured 49.51 per cent of the vote in the first round, needs only a marginal increase of 0.5 per cent on his current share to claim the presidency. In addition, Erdogan’s main rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, faces significant challenges in attracting support from other candidates, particularly far-right nationalist candidate Sinan Ogan, who is unable to transfer his accumulated votes.
An analysis of the Kurdish vote, an essential element in Turkish elections, shows that Kilicdaroglu’s prospects are limited. Despite receiving the support of 10 per cent of the total Turkish vote, which accounts for 90 per cent of the Kurdish electorate, Kilicdaroglu did not enjoy Kurdish support in the parliamentary elections. This makes it unlikely that he will be able to count on Kurdish support in the second round, knowing that the opposition has less chance of winning the parliamentary elections. Sinan Ogan’s insistence that Kilicdaroglu abandons the Kurds for his support further complicates matters, as such a demand is not feasible.
Erdogan’s strength lies in his ability to potentially secure additional Kurdish votes and his dominant position in parliament. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), in alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has a parliamentary majority, giving Erdogan the advantage of solid support in his bid for a second term. This parliamentary majority is expected to impact the presidential election’s outcome significantly.
Contrary to Western expectations of Erdogan’s downfall, the upcoming battle for the Turkish presidency appears to be more favourable for the incumbent leader. The West must prepare to deal with a president who will prioritise his country’s interests while maintaining a balanced approach to foreign relations without breaking ties with the West or aligning exclusively with Russia. However, challenges remain in the form of economic issues, with inflation and the devaluation of the local currency demanding the attention of the new Turkish president.
As the second-round approaches, Erdogan remains well placed to secure victory, benefiting from his parliamentary majority, potential gains in the Kurdish vote, and rival candidates’ limited parliamentary influence.
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