The eagerly awaited run-off election for the presidency has taken place in Turkey. The polling stations closed at 5 p.m. local time (4 p.m. CEST). A total of more than 64 million Turks were entitled to vote. Around three and a half million citizens living abroad were able to vote between May 20th and 24th. It is the first runoff election in the country’s history.
The Islamic-conservative head of state Recep Tayyip Erdogan did significantly better than pollsters had expected in the first round of the election two weeks ago, but with 49.5 percent of the votes just missed the absolute majority required for victory. His Social Democratic challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu got 44.9 percent.
Before the first round on May 14, opposition leader Kilicdaroglu, who is leading a six-party alliance, had been given good chances of victory. However, Erdogan is now the clear favorite in the run-off election, especially since the third-placed candidate, Sinan Ogan, made a recommendation for the incumbent.
Erdogan, 69, has been in power for 20 years. Critics fear that Turkey, with its approximately 85 million inhabitants, could slide completely into autocracy if he wins again. 74-year-old Kilicdaroglu promised to democratize the country.
Most recently, the issue of migration had dominated the election campaign. Kilicdaroglu in particular pushed for the return of refugees to Syria. Another topic was the poor economic situation with massive inflation.
Erdogan cast his vote with his wife Emine at a polling station in Istanbul’s Uskudar district. He called for active voter turnout. In the first round on May 14, 87 percent of those entitled to vote took part. When voting in Ankara, Kilicdaroglu also appealed to the citizens to go to the polls. He also warned to keep a close eye on the polls even after the polling stations have closed. After all, the presidential election was “held under difficult conditions”. The opposition observers were much more present in the run-off than in the first round.
Reports of attacks on election observers
Meanwhile, attacks and incidents are being reported from the runoff. Ali Seker, MP for the main opposition party CHP, told opposition broadcaster Halk TV that he and opposition poll workers were attacked by a group in a village in Turkey’s south-eastern Sanliurfa province after they complained about irregularities. CHP faction leader Özgür Özel had previously written on Twitter that election observers had been beaten and their phones smashed. Özel also criticized that there were not enough security forces on site.
Halk TV also reported that opposition election officials had been attacked in Istanbul’s Gaziosmanpasa and Ümraniye districts. Online media senika.org wrote that lawyers were not allowed into the polling stations at a school in Bagcilar district. There were arguments. The information could not be independently verified.
Internationally, the presidential election in the NATO country is closely observed. The first round was considered fundamentally free, but unfair. International observers criticized the government’s media dominance and the lack of transparency in voting. The electoral authority YSK is also considered politicized.
Exactly on the Gezi anniversary
The election falls on a date that is symbolic for the opposition: this Sunday also marks the tenth anniversary of the start of the anti-government Gezi protests. The demonstrations in spring 2013 were initially directed against the development of Istanbul’s central Gezi Park. But they then expanded into nationwide demonstrations against the increasingly authoritarian policies of Erdogan, who was still prime minister at the time. This allowed the largely peaceful protests to be crushed.
wa/sti/kle/qu (dpa, afp, rtr)