“The race is not over yet, but there is desperation among the opposition.”

Presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu last weekend in Ankara.AFP photo

Hi Rob, The second round of the election will be held on May 28th. How will Erdogan and his rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, shape their campaign until then?

Erdogan is taking a constitutional stand for now, but he is confident he will succeed. He thought in advance that the difference would be small. Then he could come up with all kinds of Trump-like scenes in the second round, such as provocations and legal action. This is not necessary now. He can continue to campaign well and collect votes.

Erdogan will insist more than before on the alleged links between Kilicdaroglu and the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In addition, stability is an important word. Erdogan has a parliamentary majority, and not many Turks want a president from another party. They’ve had bad experiences with that in the last century, and then they split up.

About the author
Martin Albers is the general correspondent for De Volkskrant.

AKP politicians have been making jokes about the coalition of opposition parties for some time now. In addition to Kilicdaroglu’s Republican People’s Party, the other five parties may provide a vice president. The mayor of Istanbul and Ankara got the same commitment. The opposition also wants to return to the parliamentary system with a prime minister and deputy prime minister. Then you have ten captains on the ship. The AKP is taking advantage of this by warning against internal discord. By the way, this is not excluded.

Kılıçdaroglu still says he is confident of victory. Of course, he cannot give up and simply cannot deviate from the path he has chosen. He hit the economy hard, and he will continue to do so, though it hasn’t helped him enough. I don’t know what he could change. If I were his advisor, I would disappoint him.

Back to the results, how could the polls be wrong?

I haven’t seen any credible explanation for that. Many polling companies tend to portray the chances of the candidate they support as more rosy than they really are. But even Conda, the most reliable polling agency, was seriously wrong. That gave Kilicdaroglu a lead of more than five percentage points: 49.3 to 43.7. Much value has been attached to this expectation, which now seems unjustified. Kilicdaroglu received 44.9 percent, and Erdogan 49.5 percent.

A street vendor in Istanbul with Turkish President Erdogan's campaign posters in the background.  Reuters photo

A street vendor in Istanbul with Turkish President Erdogan’s campaign posters in the background.Reuters photo

The expectation that Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party would lose a majority in Parliament did not materialize. In terms of percentage, the party received less than half of the votes, but due to luck with the remaining seats and the constituency system, the party still got the majority.

There is no doubt about the reliability of the results. The observers saw no fraud on a large scale. The opposition said in advance that it would closely monitor the counting of votes to prevent irregularities. We haven’t heard anything about it, so it would be strange, after such a bad outcome, for them to suddenly say that a fraud had been committed.

How did the Turks react to the result?

It was a quiet day in Istanbul. There were no riots, riots or demonstrations. The results were received calmly. But some did so with great disappointment, as I’ve noticed in conversations I’ve had. The race is not over, of course, yet, but there is desperation among the opposition. They saw this as an opportunity to make Turkey a nicer country, which doesn’t seem to be happening now.

Respected commentator Soner Cagaptay is already convinced that Erdogan will win the second round comfortably. I wouldn’t dare go that far, but I understand why he says that. Erdoğan needs a few votes to get more than 50 percent. His victory in parliament and his great leadership gave him momentum, while Kilicdaroglu lost the momentum he seemed to have.

Right-wing nationalist candidate Sinan Ogan won 5.2 percent of the vote. what will he do?

Kilicdaroglu and Erdogan will try to drag him in. Ogan himself told Reuters that he would support Kilicdaroglu only if he made no concessions to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). If Kilicdaroglu promises to do so, he risks losing the Kurdish vote. So he has to make tough decisions.

As a right-wing nationalist, Ogan is staunchly against the Kurdish movement in Türkiye. He is also, of course, closer to Erdogan. No matter what Ogan calls for, many of his voters will go to Erdogan.

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