Erdogan Leads as Turkey Faces Runoff Election

15 May 2023

Turkey's presidential election will be decided in a runoff, election officials said Monday. The election was held on Sunday.

Current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pulled ahead of his main challenger but fell short of a total victory.

The second-round vote will be held on May 28. It will decide whether the country remains under Erdogan's control or whether it takes a more democratic path promised by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the president's main challenger.

A person walks past billboards of Turkish President and People's Alliance's presidential candidate Recep Tayyip Erdogan a day after the presidential election day, in Istanbul, Turkey, Monday, May 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
A person walks past billboards of Turkish President and People's Alliance's presidential candidate Recep Tayyip Erdogan a day after the presidential election day, in Istanbul, Turkey, Monday, May 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Turks woke on Monday to learn that support for Erdogan fell just below the 50 percent mark in Sunday's election.

Still, pro-government media supported the outcome. The Yeni Safak newspaper declared "The people won." That refers to Erdogan's People's Alliance, which appeared to have won a majority in parliament. Such a result would possibly give Erdogan an upper hand in the presidential runoff.

"The winner has undoubtedly been our country," Erdogan said in a speech to his supporters at the headquarters of his ruling AK Party in the capital Ankara.

Erdogan has been in power for 20 years. Public opinion studies had suggested that his time in power could be coming to an end. Turks have not been happy with their country's cost-of-living crisis. The government was criticized for its response to February's deadly earthquake in southern Turkey. Critics said the government was too slow to provide help after the 7.8-magnitude quake, which killed more than 50,000 people.

Kilicdaroglu is the head of a six-party alliance. He promised to win in the runoff and accused Erdogan's party of interfering with the vote counting and reporting of results. He called on his supporters to be patient.

An extension of Erdogan's rule would upset civil rights activists. They are campaigning for reforms to undo the damage they say Erdogan has done to Turkey's democracy.

Thousands of political prisoners and activists could be released if the opposition wins.

The election has been closely watched in Europe, the United States and Russia. Erdogan has increased Turkey's regional power, strengthened the country's ties to Russia and worsened relations with the United States.

Even as it became clear a runoff was likely, Erdogan said Sunday's vote was a victory both for himself and the country.

"That the election results have not been finalized doesn't change the fact that the nation has chosen us," he said.

Kilicdaroglu and his party have lost all previous presidential and parliamentary elections since he took leadership in 2010. But this time, the party received more votes than in the past.

Kilicdaroglu campaigned on a pro-democracy platform. He also promised to repair an economy hurt by high inflation and a weakened currency.

In an effort to win voters affected by inflation, Erdogan increased wages and pensions and gave government money for electricity and gas bills.

As the results came in, it appeared that Erdogan performed better than expected.

Turkey's conservative voters in the middle of the country largely voted for the ruling party. Kilicdaroglu's party won most of the coastal areas in the west and south. The pro-Kurdish Green Left Party, YSP, won the mostly Kurdish provinces in the southeast.

Results reported by the state-run Anadolu Agency showed Erdogan's party won easily in the country's earthquake-hit region. He won 10 out of 11 provinces in the area, which has traditionally supported the president.

I'm Ashley Thompson.

Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by Reuters and The Associated Press.


Words in This Story

challenger— n. a person who engages in a competition

refer — n. to look at or in for information

upper hand — n. the position of having power or being in control in a particular situation

undoubtedly — adv. certain

region — n. a part of a country, of the world, etc., that is different or separate from other parts in some way

pension — n. an amount of money that a company or the government pays to a person who is old or sick and no longer works

province — n. any one of the large parts that some countries are divided into

currency — n. the money that a country uses

response — n. something that is said or written as a reply to something

upset — adj. angry or unhappy