Erdogan wins clear victory in Turkey’s presidential runoff election

After two decades in power, the leader of the Justice and Development Party will rule the country for five more years

In the year in which the Republic of Turkey turns a century old, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has already governed the country for a fifth of its history, has managed to revalidate his government for five more years and inscribe his name among the leaders who have left the greatest mark on the country. However, he has done so with a strongly polarized society. This fact was evident this Sunday, during election night, in the caravans of cars driving through the streets honking to celebrate the victory of the leader of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) and in the long faces of the other half of the population.

Already in the first unofficial counts that the news agencies Anadolu (governmental) and Anka (independent) were offering after the closing of the polls, at five o’clock in the afternoon (one hour less in mainland Spain), Erdogan was ahead, albeit slightly, of his rival, the center-left Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, at the head of a coalition of opposition parties. A few hours after the counting of the ballots began, the official count confirmed an even clearer victory for the government candidate. According to the president of the Supreme Electoral Commission, Ahmet Yener, with practically 100% of the votes reviewed, Erdogan won 52.1% of the support at the polls, against 47.9% for the opposition candidate.

After learning of the already insurmountable lead, Erdogan appeared visibly happy in the Uskudar district of Istanbul to address his followers in the mid-afternoon. Singing a song, he thanked them for their support and called the election victory that of “the 85 million” inhabitants of Turkey. “We have completed the second round of the presidential election,” he said, “and I thank those who have gone to the polls for the future of their children. Just as we have been loyal to you for twenty years, we will be loyal to you for five more years. This love does not end here, as we said; this blessed path does not end here.”

Erdogan used his appearance to lash out at his rival, Kiliçdaroglu: “Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye Kemal,” he said, making a play on words between the Turkish word for “sir”, bay, and the English word for “goodbye”, bye.

In addition, Erdogan accused the opposition of being in coalition with terrorism and of being “pro-LGBT”, the two lines that have marked his campaign and that announce a new very harsh mandate against the Kurdish left (pending a process of illegalization), against organizations for the defense of homosexual persons (that some of the president’s allies ask to ban), and of the opposition in general (several opposition leaders, including the popular mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, also have pending proceedings in Justice).

“Today we have stopped all those who were trying to play with us. Those French, English and German magazines that published covers to overthrow Erdogan. Those have lost. The terrorist organizations and the depraved currents [referring, again, to LGTBI people] those have lost,” Erdogan said in a second speech, hours later, before his followers, at the presidential palace in Ankara. He also stressed that, as long as he continues to rule, Kurdish political leader Selahattin Demirtas, in prison since 2016 despite Strasbourg rulings in favor of his release, “will not get out of jail.” The president then affirmed that he would “comply with the popular demand” to gradually return Syrian refugees in Turkey to Turkish-controlled areas in northern Syria.

The far-right leader Devlet Bahçeli, Erdogan’s ally, also charged in a very harsh speech, after the confirmation of the president’s victory, against the critical press, both local and international, and against the pollsters and warned that “many things are going to change”.

Opposition leaders also appeared recognizing their defeat, which they attributed, in part, to the difficulty of competing in an unlevel playing field in favor of the President. Among them, the defeated Kiliçdaroglu, who shortly after Erdogan’s first appearance, acknowledged his failure, in an electoral race in which the winner, as he defended, was able to mobilize “all the resources of the state” in favor of the AKP.

The defeat has already caused cracks in this alliance of parties. Its six leaders had planned to appear jointly, but in the end preferred to do so separately. “The coach who keeps two players like Ronaldo and Messi on the bench is to blame…”, criticized Ibrahim Özkan, leader of IYI, the second largest party of the opposition platform, which had been against presenting Kiliçdaroglu as a candidate, since the polls gave him fewer options against Erdogan than others such as the mayors of Ankara and Istanbul.

The opposition did not report irregularities on election night, although during the day there were incidents in various parts of the country, especially in the province of Sanliurfa, such as attempts to put several votes into ballot boxes or to vote for other people. In some cases, the incidents ended in fights or with the intervention of the security forces.

The most serious incident reported on Sunday was the killing of a member of the opposition IYI party by AKP supporters during celebrations in Ordu province, some 880 kilometers east of Istanbul. Leaders of several opposition parties have blamed the crime on the government’s hate speech and revanchism.


Another factor that may have contributed to the results was a three-point drop in turnout compared to the first round of elections. Throughout Election Day, leaders from both sides made appeals to their constituents. “It seems that the turnout is low. We ask you to go and vote and make sure that everyone around you votes,” a local AKP official in Ankara asked in an SMS sent to the population. However, this drop in turnout was more pronounced in the Kurdish-majority provinces, where it fell by up to six points, hurting the opposition candidate.

This is probably due to the fact that Kiliçdaroglu had reinforced the more nationalist discourse to attract the voters of the third candidate in the first round, the ultranationalist Sinan Ogan, who finally gave his support to Erdogan, while the parties supporting Ogan’s candidacy chose to call for a vote for the opposition. All in all, the voters for this candidate seem to have been equally divided between the two contenders.

Shortly after the official results of the Turkish elections were known, numerous leaders rushed to congratulate the winner, including the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, the President of Ukraine, Volodymir Zelenski, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, and the President of Brazil. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Also the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

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