Erdogan vs Kilicdaroglu in run-off vote: Turkish analysts give their take

Erdogan vs Kilicdaroglu in run-off vote: Turkish analysts give their take
Turkish presidential candidates Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu will face each other again on 28 May in a run-off vote to choose the country's next leader.
3 min read
19 May, 2023
Erdogan has a good chance of winning at the run-off vote on 28 May after beating Kilicdaroglu in the first round [Adem Altan/AFP via Getty]

Turkey will hold its second round of presidential elections on 28 May, after Sunday's initial session saw neither President Recep Tayyip Erdogan nor opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu reach the required threshold of 50 percent to avoid a run-off.

All eyes are currently on Sinan Ogan of the ATA Alliance, who - with a surprising five percent of the vote - has become a potential 'kingmaker' in the election due to the tight gap between Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu who obtained 49.51 percent and 44.88 percent of the vote respectively.

This follows a fiercely fought campaign between two candidates with dramatically differing visions for Turkey on core issues.

Kilicdaroglu has vowed to fix Turkey's battered economy, return to a parliamentary system, and made repatriating millions of Syrian refugees a core part of his platform.

Erdogan, meanwhile, argues that his party can fix Turkey's myriad problems again, as in the past, and has made lavish promises around housing, earthquake relief, the economy, and the return of Syrian refugees.

From Ogan to Erdogan

Turkish political analyst Burhan Koroglu told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister edition: "I think those who voted for Ogan will now vote for Erdogan."

He said it was unlikely that ultranationalist Ogan would ally with Kilicdaroglu, who has the backing of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). The HDP has a mostly Kurdish base and is accused by Turkish politicians of links with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

Ogan himself stated on Monday he wouldn't support Kilicdaroglu in the run-off "unless he agreed not to make concessions to a pro-Kurdish party".

Turkish researcher Ozan Uysal believes both candidates will seek Ogan's endorsement, but the nationalist politician would most likely ally with Erdogan.

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"However, I don't know if Ogan's supporters will listen to their candidate if he asks them to vote for Erdogan, when what they want is change," he said.

Erdogan supporters buoyant

Erdogan appeared buoyant in Ankara just after midnight on Sunday as he addressed crowds of celebrating supporters amid impressive parliamentary wins.

"I believe from the depths of my heart we will keep serving our people for the next five years," he said.

On Monday, Kilicdaroglu addressed his supporters with a more muted tone: "We've been working non-stop since yesterday, so don't despair, because I'm still standing tall.

"What happens will be the will of our people."

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Kilicdaroglu voters dejected

The popular momentum behind the opposition leader, which was palpable in the streets during the first round of elections, has now receded. Supporters feel disappointed and frustrated after relying on Kilicdaroglu to score a decisive win in the first session.

A Kilicdaroglu supporter who spoke to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed said: "I am pessimistic, we've lost hope, I didn't expect these low results, because the ruling party hasn't been good, we suffer in our daily income, have problems accessing justice and the law. As a citizen I thought the Turkish people would change their choice, but this didn't happen."

Regarding the run-off vote he said dejectedly: "It is certain the same president will continue".

Still hope for the opposition

Jawad Gok, a pro-opposition Turkish political analyst, sees hope for the the CHP-led alliance in the second round if they run a strong campaign but conceded that the movement also appears weaker than before.

"Erdogan's chances appear greater because his supporters show up strongly at the ballot boxes," he said. 

Ogan's votes will likely be split between the two candidates, but will ultimately benefit Erdogan, he added.

This article is based on a piece by Saddam al-Kamali which appeared in our Arabic edition on 16 May 2023. To read the original article click here.