Turkey’s Presidential Elections: What is Happening and What is Next

The first round ended with a lead by Erdogan but no clear winner. A run-off between Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu will be held on the 28th of May. Who is expected to win and what is the role of Ogan?

Voting to decide the next Turkish President has opened on the 14th of May 2023. This round of elections is set to represent the biggest challenge ever faced by the current leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who could lose his position as head of state after almost 10 years.

Who are the candidates?

The main candidates in the 2023 Presidential elections are three: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kemal Kilicdaroglu and Sinan Ogan.

Erdogan is the leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a group characterised by populist and conservative views that tend to Islamism and refuse Turkey’s secularism. He has been in power in the country for 20 years. His political rise started, in fact, when he became Prime Minister in 2003, managing then to reach the Presidential Office in 2014.

Kilicdaroglu, also known as the “Turkish Gandhi”, is a retired civil servant who has been chosen as the representative of a coalition of 6 opposition groups that seeks to remove Erdogan from power. Among these there is the Republican People’s Party (CHP), which is led by this candidate.

Sinan Ogan is a former member of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), who is now running independently.

What are the results of the first round of votes?

The first day of voting ended with a lead by Erdogan but no clear winner. None of the candidates, in fact, was able to reach the 50% of votes, the minimum required to win the battle. Erdogan received 49.52% of the votes, Kilicdaroglu 44.76% and, Ogan 5.3%. As a consequence, a run-off will be held on the 28th of May.

The first-round has already revealed the importance of these elections both at the national and international level. A possible win by the opposition could put an end to Erdogan’s increasingly authoritative regime and significantly change the political landscape of the country.

The opposition led by Kilicdaroglu, in fact, is seeking to reverse the changes made by the current President by restoring the parliamentary system, bringing changes to the presidency, and removing the head of the state’s ability to veto on legislation.

This democratization of the political system of the country will undoubtedly be significant both for Turkish citizens and for foreign powers. This is especially true for actors such as Europe and the US as Kilicdaroglu is planning on continuing the fight to join the EU and wants to restore a relationship of mutual trust with the United States.

Who is expected to win and what is the role of Ogan?

Despite the lead shown by Erdogan in the results of the voting that took place this week, poll agencies claim that Kilicdaroglu is expected to win the elections. MetroPoll, in fact, has argued that Erdogan has only the 46.9% of preferences, while his opposition the 49.1%. These findings have been supported by the predictions of the KONDA.

Nevertheless, despite the claims made by polling agencies it has become increasingly clear that the next President will be the person who will manage to obtain the support of Sinan Ogan. In fact, while having obtained solely the 5.3% of votes, he has found himself in a central position in these elections, given that his supporters can change their outcome if they choose to join the supporters of either Erdogan or Kilicdaroglu.

This is the reason why both sides are already trying to form coalitions with Ogan, aimed at gaining his share of voters.

Ogan has claimed that he had still not decided on the candidate that he will endorse. However, he has donated critical information that can help voters to imagine which side he will take. He has clearly stated, in fact, that he will support the person who will demonstrate eagerness to fight terrorism and choose to bring back refugees after the departure of Syrians.

The outcome of these elections is still unknown. However, one thing is certain: Kilicdaroglu has made history in the country as the first opposition leader who has been able to significantly challenge Erdogan during his rule that has spanned over 2 decades.

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