In Turkey, the decisive run-off election for the presidency is underway. The polling stations opened on Sunday morning (local time). A total of more than 64 million Turks are 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. Kilicdaroglu (74) 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.
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 (dpa, afp, rtr)