Turkey elections 2023: no overall majority in tense final hours

Turkey elections 2023: no overall majority in tense final hours
Turkey's historic presidential election looks set for a runoff, as the gap between president Erdogan and his challenger Kilicdaroglu continues to narrow.
15 min read
Polling stations opened at 8:00am local time for the Turkish elections [Burak Kara/Getty]

The New Arab's live coverage of the Turkish election results so far on Sunday has now ended. Join us in the morning where we'll be picking up where we left off. You can also keep up to date with the election and other stories from the Middle East, North Africa and beyond on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Turks voted on Sunday in one of the most important elections in modern Turkey's 100-year history, which could either unseat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or usher in a third decade of his rule.

Polls have closed in a vote which will decide not only who leads Turkey, a NATO-member country of 85 million, but also how it is governed, where its economy is headed amid a deep cost of living crisis, and the shape of its foreign policy, which has taken unpredictable turns.

While President Erdogan remains ahead in the exit polls, the vote remains tight heading into the final count, with an indicative result expected during the night. 

Many analysts are predicting a re-run - which would be triggered if no candidate breaches the threshold of 50%. 

Voters will also elect a new parliament, likely a tight race between the People's Alliance comprising Erdogan's conservative Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the nationalist MHP and others, and Kilicdaroglu's Nation Alliance formed of six opposition parties, including his secularist Republican People's Party (CHP), established by Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Polls opened at 08:00 local time (05:00 GMT) and closed at 17:00 (14:00 GMT). 

By late on Sunday there could be a good indication of whether there will be a runoff vote for the presidency.

1:04 AM
The New Arab Staff

Runoff looks inevitable

No clear victor has emerged from tonight's count so far. With more than 96% of ballot boxes counted, Erdogan led with 49.44% of votes and Kilicdaroglu had 44.86%, according to state-owned news agency Anadolu.

This concludes the New Arab's live coverage of Sunday's events in Turkey. Join us in the morning where we'll be picking up where we left off. You can also keep up to date with the election and other stories from the Middle East, North Africa and beyond on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

12:22 AM
The New Arab Staff

Erdogan speaks to a tense nation

Erdogan has sworn to respect the electoral results in what he called a "feast of democracy" speaking to crowds outside the AK party's Ankara headquarters. 

"If there is a runoff, we will respect that," said the president, while also saying that he believes he will win in the first round. 

11:45 PM
The New Arab Staff

Erdogan to address crowds

"The balcony is ready. The nation is waiting for its leader," according to the AKP official twitter account, live streaming from the streets around Erdogan's residence - where the president is expected to speak to crowds shortly. 

It's worth bearing in mind that the Supreme Election Council still puts a final result a long way off. 

11:17 PM
The New Arab Staff

AKP sees major drop in parliamentary seats 

While the presidential ballot draws much of tonight's attention, Erdogan's AK party is seeing significant losses in the Turkish parliament.

Much of the next few days will be spent picking over who has decide to forsake the ruling party, where have they gone - and why, but for now here's some of the latest results: 

11:00 PM
The New Arab Staff

Kilicdaroglu speaks

Key challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu has gone in front of the cameras for the first time, stressing again the importance staying with the count throughout the night. 

"Don't block the will of the nation. Let the results come in and everyone know the results," he said, addressing the government directly. 

In essence, Kilicdaroglu is accusing the AKP of clogging up the wheels of the electoral process by flooding the system with objections to results in opposition-favoured areas. 

With the Supreme Election Council putting the official count still below 70%, we could be in for a long haul. 


10:17 PM
The New Arab Staff

All sides urge to protect the count

As today's landmark poll draws to a close, politicians and officials of all stripes are highlighting the significance of protecting the count's credibility. Ballot boxes are being counted and re-counted across the country, with the two candidates pulling closer and closer. 

9:48 PM
The New Arab Staff

Sinan Ogan's voters crucial in case of re-run

If today's ballot produces no overall victor, the two leading candidates - Kilicdaroglu and Erdogan - will head to a re-run on 28 May. In that case, both candidates will be trying to court the voters of third-place Sinan Ogan, the nationalist-leaning independent candidate whose faithful voters could well go either way. 

9:41 PM
The New Arab Staff

BREAKING: Erdogan dips below 50% for first time 

AKP's leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just lost the overall majority lead, going into the last 10%. This is going to be a tense few hours across Turkey. 

8:33 PM

Frontrunners spar over vote count practices 

Erdogan has tweeted for the first time this evening, saying that hurrying to announce election results while the counting goes on would mean stealing people's will - while challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu warned election authorities to log all nationwide results.

"While the election was held in such a positive and democratic atmosphere and the vote counting is still going on, trying to announce results hastily means usurping the national will," Erdogan wrote on Twitter in his first message since voting ended.

Kilicdaroglu said separately on Twitter: "We will not sleep tonight" as he warned that all ballots should be included in the count.

8:28 PM
The New Arab Staff

How is Erdogan's coalition holding? 

While tonight's vote is close, the incumbent president is still holding together his natural base to stay well in contention for the presidency. Some Turkish analysts believe the broadening of his coalition to include other islamist parties is helping allow for dissent from within the fold. 

7:24 PM
The New Arab Staff

Kilicdaroglu narrows the gap as count reaches 70%

Turkish media outlets have pegged Erdogan back to just over 51% while Kilicdaroglu reaches 43.2% as we head into the last third of the vote count - which will keep trickling in over the coming hours. 

6:55 PM
The New Arab Staff

Why do early polls skew towards Erdogan?

According to election observers, Erdogan's traditional heartlands are the first areas of Turkey to cast their votes - which is why we're seeing a significant lead for the incumbent so early on in the evening. Inner city votes are being counted later - which are more likely to land for Kilicdaroglu. 


6:39 PM
The New Arab Staff

Voters keep voting

While Turkish elections are often questioned for their fairness, Turks continue to show up in huge numbers for presidential votes. Turnout is regularly above 80% - and this year is no exception. 

6:10 PM
The New Arab Staff

'We are ahead': Kilicdaroglu defiant though preliminary results not in his favour

Opposition presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu has said he is ahead in the race for the Turkish presidency, despite preliminary results given by state-owned broadcasters putting the incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the lead.

"We are ahead," read his tweet, just one word in Turkish.

A few minutes earlier, senior CHP member Ekrem Imamoglu had said that data showed Kilicdaroglu would win the vote.

5:47 PM
The New Arab Staff

CHP's Imamoglu says Kilicdaroglu on track to win vote

Senior Republican People's Party (CHP) member Ekrem Imamoglu has said current data shows that opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu will win the vote - and warned against heeding preliminary results given by Turkish state-owned media that puts current president Erdogan ahead of the challenger.

Based on preliminary results, Turkish state-owned broadcaster has put Erdogan ahead of Kilidaroglu with 52.85% of the vote, with just over 38% of the vote having been counted.

5:15 PM
The New Arab Staff

Preliminary results put Erdogan ahead of Kilicdaroglu with 55.03% of the vote, according to Turkish state-owned broadcaster TRT Haber.

The results are based on 21.33% of the votes having been counted, the broadcaster said.

The head of Turkey's High Election Board earlier lifted a publication ban, but said to wait until it announces official tentative results later.

4:45 PM
The New Arab Staff

Erdogan ahead of Kilicdaroglu early on in vote count: HaberTurk

Preliminary results put Erdogan ahead of Kilicdaroglu with 59.47% of votes, HaberTurk has said.

The results are based on 9.1% of the votes having been counted, according to the Turkish broadcaster.

4:40 PM
The New Arab Staff

Musk defends move to 'censor' Twitter in Turkey during elections

Twitter decided on Friday to restrict some Turkey-related content ahead of one of the country’s most important presidential elections ever - a move that was later defended by the social media platform's chief Elon Musk.

Twitter did not give a reason behind the decision, nor specify which content it would block, but it added fuel to fears that content from the Turkish opposition could be restricted.


Musk defended the move and lashed out at a columnist who criticised it.

The choice is have Twitter throttled in its entirety or limit access to some tweets. Which one do you want?," the Twitter CEO said on Saturday.

Read more on this story here.

3:55 PM
The New Arab Staff

Erdogan, Kilicdaroglu on the vote 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took to Twitter after polls closed at 5pm local time, saying: "The voting process was completed in a way that befits our democracy." 

Meanwhile, Kilicdaroglu urged caution and an eagle-eyed monitoring of the vote count process.

"I want to call out to our heroes of democracy. Never leave the ballot boxes, no matter what, until the last signed ballot box report is delivered," he said.

"The full and correct manifestation of the will of the people depends on your determination. You will see, it will be worth your tiredness."


3:45 PM
The New Arab Staff

While we wait for results to come in, a reminder of the context in which the elections are taking place:

2:55 PM
The New Arab Staff

Polls close across the country

Polling stations are set to shut across Turkey at 17:00 local time (14:00 GMT).

Under Turkish law, the reporting of any results is banned until 21:00. Only the Supreme Election Council is able to announce results before that time.

2:15 PM
The New Arab Staff

What the voters say: Izmir

The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed spoke to voters at the polls in Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city.

Most of the voters spoken to expressed support for the opposition camp and their candidate for president, Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

A taxi driver told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that he would vote for Kilicdaroglu because the cost of living had become too high.

"Change is necessary," he said.

A Kurdish voter said she would be voting for Kilicdaroglu because of promises he had made to Turkey’s Kurdish minority during the election campaign.

Meanwhile, another voter said he has always voted for Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), and that he would be doing so again. He described Erdogan as the "father of the Turkish people".

A different voter said: "Most of the residents here support the CHP, but I will give my vote to Erdogan because I have seen what he has done for Turkey." 

Izmir province has about 4.5 million residents, according to 2022 statistics. 

The province has 28 of the 600 seats in Turkey’s parliament.

12:35 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

What the voters say 

Here are some views from Turkish citizens as their country voted on Sunday in elections that could extend President Tayyip Erdogan's rule into a third decade or see a transfer of power to his main rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

In Turkey's largest city Istanbul:

"(Erdogan) gave us everything. He made many lovely things happen. I don't know what else he can give us but I want him to continue... I don't think it will go to a runoff," school staff member Hasibe said.

Retired health sector worker Ahmet Kalkan, 64, said: "I see these elections as a choice between democracy and dictatorship. I chose democracy and I hope that my country chooses democracy. I have hope that Kilicdaroglu will win.” 

In the quake-hit city of Antakya:

"I see this election as a hope for my own future. I have hope. God willing, the results will be good. We look forward to the day when our city will be rebuilt and we will return here,” said Antakya resident Suheyla Azaki Gok.

"We experienced massive destruction. Our school has become unusable. We are unable to use the building. As you can see, even in elections, votes are being cast in ballot boxes outside," said school teacher Behzat Oz. 

In the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir:

"I voted for Erdogan for the presidency. For parliament I voted for the (pro-Kurdish) Green Red Party. Kilicdaroglu's statements didn't convince me," said civil servant Ahmet Celebi, 45. 

"Erdogan put his name to very important projects for this country so I want him to continue."

"I voted for the Green Left Party and Kilicdaroglu because the economic crisis is making it difficult for us. A change is needed for the country," said Nuri Can, 26. 

"After the election there will be an economic crisis at the door again, so I wanted change."


10:40 AM
The New Arab Staff

'Make Turkey Slay Again': CHP rally video goes viral

A video of Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu saying the phrase 'Make Turkey Slay Again' while at a rally for the opposition Republican People's Party has gone viral on Twitter.

While on stage earlier this week, Imamoglu read out the slogans written on signs held by members of the rally crowd - including one that purportedly read 'Make Turkey Slay Again'.

The phrase is a decidedly Gen-Z rework of the slogan 'Make America Great Again' used by Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential election campaign.

Imamoglu has been promised the post of vice president in a Kilicardoglu-led government.

9:55 AM
The New Arab Staff

Erdogan, Kilicdaroglu cast votes

The two main contenders in the Turkish presidential election have cast their votes.

Current Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cast his vote in the Uskudar neighbourhood in Istanbul.

"My hope to God is that after the counting concludes this evening, the outcome is good for the future of our country, for Turkish democracy," he said.

Opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu told reporters while casting his vote: "We all missed democracy."

9:00 AM
The New Arab Staff

The presidential race has been marred by xenophobic discourse, especially on Turkey's 3.5 million Syrian refugees.

The vote has sparked fear and worry among Syrian refugees. Challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu has vowed repeatedly to send home all Syrian refugees in the space of just two years. Erdogan too has promised to return refugees, though his commitment to the task has looked shaky.

Read more on how the presidential candidates have exploited the issue here:

Live Story
8:50 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Erdogan vs Kilicdaroglu: two visions of Turkey's future

One embraces chaos and glorifies Turkey's Islamic past. The other promises the badly divided country a slightly calmer and more prosperous future.

The contrast between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu could hardly be starker in Sunday's crucial election.

Erdogan is the man who rose from a hardscrabble part of Istanbul to become Turkey's longest-serving leader - a devout 69-year-old who has created chronic headaches for the West and become a hero for Turkey's working classes.

"Erdogan is our chief and we are his soldiers," 48-year-old Sennur Henek told AFP while attending one of the president's packed campaign rallies.

Live Story

Kilicdaroglu is a bookish former civil servant from a historically repressed Kurdish group who has lost half a dozen national elections to Erdogan while leading his secular party.

His frank kitchen chats with voters have turned him into a social media star at the age of 74.

Kilicdaroglu also promises to retire after stripping the presidency of Erdogan's powers and then "go spend time with my grandchildren".

Many say they are voting for Kilicdaroglu for the simple reason that he is not Erdogan.

"We have a party here that has been ruling for 20 years and that alone is a scandal," Ankara worker Mehmet Cankurnaz said on the eve of one of Turkey's most consequential elections of its modern era

8:40 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Turkey quake city 'won't vote for Erdogan again'

"We need change, we've had enough," said Mehmet Topaloglu, one of the first to cast his ballot on Sunday in the southern Turkish city of Antakya, destroyed by this year's devastating earthquake.

For Topaloglu, the 7.8-magnitude February tremor that killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey and the economic situation have changed the nature of the polls, which could end President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's more than two-decade grip on power.

"I voted Erdogan for his first two terms, but I won't vote for him again, even if he were my father," the farmer told AFP at an Antakya school used as a polling centre.

Semra Karakas and her 23-year-old daughter Aylin endured a 14-hour bus ride to return to Antakya for the vote, after the quake forced them to leave and settle in the southern coastal city of Antalya.

"The state didn't come to our aid. They came three or four days afterwards," said Aylin, who thinks support for the conservative Erdogan in Antakya's Hatay province will "fall a lot".

Medical worker Deryer Deniz, 35, has lived in cramped conditions in a tent since the tragedy, and thinks this year's elections "are much more important".

She said she knew "many voters" who used to vote for Erdogan come what may have now changed their mind.