President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday appealed to Turkish voters to back him in a runoff election on May 28 to maintain stability in Turkey as he seeks to extend his rule into a third decade.
Erdogan won 49.5 percent of Sunday’s vote, falling short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff, seen as a referendum on his autocratic rule. His main rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, candidate of the six-party opposition bloc, received 45 percent.
Turkish financial assets weakened for a second day, especially government and corporate bonds and bank stocks, as investors bet that Erdogan, 69, would win another five-year term and continue his unorthodox economic policies.
In Sunday’s parliamentary elections, the People’s Alliance, made up of Erdogan’s AKP party (AKP) and its nationalist and Islamist allies, won 322 of the 600 seats in the new legislature, a majority that allowed it to claim that voting for him can be. ensure stability.
Erdogan said that Turkey needs harmony between the parliament and the presidency for functional governance.
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“The strong presence of the People’s Alliance in the parliament also makes us, as the government, stronger. Harmony between the executive and the legislature will help the development of our country,” he said in an interview with CNN Turk.
A breakdown of the voting results showed the AKP leading even in 10 of the 11 provinces affected by February’s devastating earthquakes in southeastern Turkey, which killed more than 50,000 people and left millions homeless.
Analysts say the result shows that Erdogan’s promise to rebuild destroyed cities has reassured voters in areas that were already largely AKP strongholds.
In his turn, Erdogan’s rival Kilicdaroglu tried to give a positive assessment of the result.
“A change message appeared from the ballot box. Those who want change in this country now outnumber those who don’t,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, referring to Erdogan’s below 50% figure in a series of tweets aimed at “dear youth”.
But many of his supporters, including first-time voter Asim, were gloomy about Kilicdaroglu’s chances in the runoff.
“I have less hope now,” said Asim, a 22-year-old student.
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“I think there is a dead end here. There are (Turkish) nationalist voters on one side and Kurdish voters on the other side,” he said, referring to the broad coalition backing Kılıçdaroğlu, a mild-mannered former civil servant.
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“Only a master politician can win from this situation, and that person is not Kilicdaroglu, in my opinion.”
Kılıçdaroğlu, 74, appealed to young voters by citing a cost-of-living crisis in Turkey that has been exacerbated by Erdogan’s insistence on lowering interest rates, causing the lira to plummet and inflation to soar.
“You have no money for anything,” he said. “Your joy in life has been taken away… You will never get your youth back. We have 12 days to get out of this dark tunnel…”
Young voters have said they want better education, an end to nepotism and improved human rights. A Konda Research poll last year found that nearly three-quarters of first-time voters think it will be bad for Turkey if Erdogan wins this presidential election, versus 59% of the population.
Kilicdaroglu, leader of the secular CHP party, has vowed to restore democracy after years of state repression, return to orthodox economic policies, strengthen institutions that lost autonomy under Erdogan and restore frayed ties with the West.
Meanwhile, the leftist Green Party, the third-largest party in the new parliament after the AKP and the CHP, said it had lodged objections to the results in “hundreds” of ballot boxes, alleging fraud.
The election is being watched closely in Washington, Europe and across the region, where Erdogan has established Turkish rule. He has also strengthened ties with Russia, straining Ankara’s traditional alliance with the United States.
In Sunday’s presidential vote, third-party nationalist candidate Sinan Ogan garnered 5.2% support, and much attention will now be focused on how his supporters will vote on May 28.
In a possible boost to Erdogan, Ogan said in an interview with Reuters on Monday that he would back Kilicdaroglu only if he ruled out any concessions to the pro-Kurdish party.
Opinion polls showed Erdogan trailing Kılıçdaroğlu, but Sunday’s results showed he and his Islamic-rooted AKP managed to rally conservative voters despite Turkey’s economic woes.
Kilicdaroglu and his alliance want to restore the parliamentary system of government and abandon the powerful executive presidency represented by Erdogan.
In Sunday’s parliamentary vote, the AKP came first with 267 lawmakers, followed by Kılıçdaroğlu’s CHP with 169 and the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party with 61.
–Additional reporting by Karin Strohecker in London and Huseyin Hayatsev in Ankara Writing by Darren Butler and Gareth Jones Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Alistair Bell