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Turkey’s Presidential Election Going To a Runoff

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Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (c) makes a statement to the press. He has pledged to revive democracy after years of state repression

Incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has comfortably defeated his chief rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu but failed to clear the 50% vote threshold needed to avoid a second round.

The runoff will take place on 28 May.

The 69-year-old conservative Erdoğan confounded pollsters’ predictions and his secular rival to win the first round of the country’s pivotal election, scoring 49.51% against Kılıçdaroğlu’s 44.88% with a small number of overseas votes left to count.

Ahmet Yener, the head of the Supreme Electoral Board, said on Monday that even when the remaining 35,874 uncounted overseas votes were distributed, no one would secure the majority needed to win the elections outright.

Could a diverse alliance end Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authoritarian rule?

Pre-election polls had suggested Erdoğan risked a first national election defeat to his main challenger, the unity candidate for a disparate six-party alliance, in a vote seen as the most critical in the Muslim-majority country’s recent history.

A nationalist third candidate, Sinan Oğan, emerged as a potential kingmaker after picking up 5.17% of the vote.

Erdoğan’s Justice and Development party (AKP) and its far-right allies were also close to an outright majority in parallel parliamentary elections.

The result was a bitter disappointment for Kılıçdaroğlu, 74, and his Republican People’s party (CHP) supporters, with some in the opposition camp questioning whether their candidate, chosen after a year of bitter debate, had been the right one.

The opposition had expected to benefit from voter anger at Turkey’s economic crisis after Erdoğan’s unorthodox policy of low interest rates sent the lira plunging and inflation soaring to hit 85% last year.

Kılıçdaroğlu has pledged to revive democracy after years of state repression, return to orthodox economic policies, empower institutions that lost autonomy under Erdoğan and rebuild frail ties with the west.

Erdoğan has ruled Turkey, first as prime minister then as president, since 2003, championing religious and conservative social values and presiding over an increasingly authoritarian regime that is more and more intolerant of criticism.

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