Turkey's third-place finisher endorses Erdogan

Turkey's third-place finisher endorses Erdogan
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan secured the support of ultra-nationalist Sinan Ogan, whose third-place finish in the election forced Turkey's first runoff, with Ogan endorsing Erdogan as the People's Alliance candidate in the upcoming second round.
3 min read
22 May, 2023
Analysts question how much weight Ogan's endorsement carries with his voters [Getty]

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday secured the endorsement of an ultra-nationalist whose third-place finish helped force Turkey's first election runoff.

Sinan Ogan's 5.2 percent of the vote in the May 14 general election deprived Erdogan of an outright victory for the first time in his 20-year rule.

He met the Turkish leader on Friday and held separate negotiations with allies of opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

"We will support the People's Alliance candidate, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the second round of the elections on May 28," he told reporters in nationally televised remarks.

"I invite voters who backed us in the first round to support Mr. Erdogan in the second round."

Ogan portrays himself as an ardent supporter of a brand of Turkish nationalism espoused by the post-Ottoman republic's creator Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

He has demanded the immediate expulsion of millions of migrants and sought a firm stance on "terrorists" - a euphemism for Kurdish groups fighting for broader autonomy in Turkey's southeast.

The 54-year-old also tried to stop the opposition from discussing constitutional changes that could dilute language stressing the importance of Turkishness at the expense of other ethnicities.

Analysts question how much weight Ogan's endorsement carries with his voters.

His tiny party has only been around for a few months and most of his support appears to be disaffected with both Turkey's Islamic-rooted leader and his 74-year-old secular rival.

But it undermines Kilicdaroglu's urgent efforts to expand his appeal among more nationalist voters in the runup to the second round.

"Ogan's newfound reputation as a kingmaker is an exaggeration.. Ogan's backing for Erdogan is no guarantee that his voters from the first round will follow in lockstep," Hamish Kinnear of the Verisk Maplecroft consultancy told AFP.

"Assuming Erdogan's first round voters remain on side, only a small portion of Ogan's voters need to go with Erdogan to push the president into his third decade in power."

Kilicdaroglu ran a more inclusive campaign that focused on Turkey's raging economic crisis and Erdogan's crackdown on civil liberties during his second decade of rule.

But he struck a decidedly more nationalist tone in his first post-election appearance last week.

The former civil servant pledged to send "all the refugees home" when he comes to power and accused Erdogan of failing to "protect the borders and honour of our country".

Erdogan had signalled that he did not intend to make any concession to Ogan to secure his support.

Kilicdaroglu sounded defiant in a tweet posted moments after Ogan's announcement.

He accused unnamed forces of "selling out this beautiful country" and signalled his intention to continue pursuing the nationalist vote.

"We are coming to save this country from terrorism and refugees," Kilicdaroglu wrote.

"This is a referendum. No one can fool anyone anymore."