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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters in Istanbul.

REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Turkey: Erdogan to run off with the runoff

By most accounts, the only real question ahead of Turkey’s presidential runoff this weekend is: by how much?

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Jess Frampton

Turkey’s sultan Erdogan is not going anywhere

Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan is … strong.

Despite most opinion polls predicting a win for main-opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a soft-spoken technocrat who leads the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP), President Erdogan received 49.5% of the votes in Sunday’s presidential election compared to Kilicdaroglu’s 44.9%. Erdogan’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its People’s Alliance coalition, meanwhile, defied expectations to retain majority control of Turkey’s 600-member parliament.

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by his wife Ermine Erdogan, greets supporters at the AK Party headquarters in Ankara, Turkey.


Why is Erdogan still popular?

By many measures, things aren’t great in Turkey right now.

Inflation is at 44% (down from 85% in October), and analysts say it’s likely higher than official numbers suggest. Meanwhile, the lira, Turkey’s currency, is tanking, having fallen 76% during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest term in office (since 2018).

That’s to say nothing of the 1.5 million people left homeless by February’s devastating earthquake, which killed 50,000 in the country’s south and exposed the depths of Ankara’s cronyism and corruption. The list goes on.

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Supporters of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, presidential candidate of Turkey's main opposition alliance, attend a rally ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections.


Turkey headed to round two

Turkey's presidential election is almost surely headed to a runoff. With more than 99% of domestic ballots and 84% of overseas votes in on Monday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is just short of the 50% he needs to avoid a May 28 second-round contest with Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a technocrat who heads an opposition made up of six parties.

What's more, the president's Islamist Justice and Development Party also looks set to win a majority in parliament.

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People look on from a balcony with a banner with the image of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Erdogan’s moment of truth

Perhaps no election in 2023 will have as much global impact as Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary votes, which begin this Sunday.

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during a rally ahead of the May 14 election in Istanbul.

REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Is the Erdoğan era in Turkey coming to an end?

After dominating Turkish politics for two decades, opinion polls suggest that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan could face his toughest elections ever on May 14. The charismatic, tough-talking politician became prime minister in 2003 after his moderate Islamist party swept to power, breaking with a long tradition of secular government. In 2014, he won the country’s first-ever direct presidential election and then expanded the powers of the office with a new constitution passed in 2017.

A deepening economic crisis – with inflation just under 50% – and a bungled initial response to devastating earthquakes in February have created an opening for an opposition candidate to prevent Erdoğan’s rule from extending into a third decade. That could have implications far beyond Turkey. Though a NATO member, Turkey under Erdoğan has pursued closer relations with Russia and various other policies that have created tensions with its Western partners.

We spoke with Turkey experts at Eurasia Group to get a better sense of what to expect from the upcoming elections.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a ceremony to mark the delivery of nuclear fuel to the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, which is being built by Russia, in Ankara.

Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS

Turkey's looming crisis

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the man who has dominated Turkey’s politics for a generation, was once mayor of Istanbul, and that job helped vault him to national leadership. “Whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey,” he once said.

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Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, greets his supporters accompanied by his wife during a rally in Istanbul.

REUTERS/Murad Sezer

The man who could beat Erdogan

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has dominated Turkey’s politics for the past 20 years, first as prime minister and now as president. By drawing support from long-ignored socially conservative voters in the country’s rural Anatolian heartland, he broke the stranglehold on his country’s politics long held by a business elite in Turkey’s three largest cities who governed with frequent interference from the military.

But in the process, Erdoğan has also demonstrated a willingness to undermine his country’s democracy by marginalizing, and sometimes jailing, critics and independent-minded journalists and by remaking Turkey’s political and court system to protect his power. A failed coup attempt in July 2016 only heightened Erdoğan’s drive for tighter control of Turkey’s politics.

Now, after more than two decades of political dominance, a looming presidential election leaves Erdoğan facing a serious challenge. Runaway inflation, a currency crisis, and scandals arising from devastating earthquakes in February that killed tens of thousands and left millions homeless have combined to put Erdoğan in a tight spot headed into the first round of voting on May 14.

Perhaps most importantly, the country’s opposition appears much more unified than in the past.

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