Turkey: Amid runoff for first time, Erdogan wins over 49% of vote in presidential elections

Turkey’s Supreme Election Council makes its final announcement Monday on election results, with all ballot boxes across Turkey opened, giving more than 49% of the vote to incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The Turkish Supreme Election Council (YSK) on Monday announced that all ballot boxes were opened in Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections while a small number of overseas ballots were still not available. The council announced President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won 49.51% of the vote, confirming a runoff vote, scheduled for May 28.

In a highly anticipated news conference in the capital Ankara, Ahmet Yener, chair of the YSK, told reporters that “100%” of the ballot boxes were opened in 81 provinces of Turkey and the turnout rate was registered as 88.92% within Turkish borders and 52.69% among voters abroad.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the main rival of Erdogan, won 44.88% of the vote, ahead of Sinan Ogan, the candidate of the ATA Alliance who won 5.17% of the vote. Muharrem Ince, who dropped out of the race days before the vote, won 0.44% of the vote as his name remained on ballots, including those already cast abroad before his announcement of withdrawal.

“It is decided that none of the candidates secured the required majority in the presidential election and therefore a runoff vote will be held on May 28,” Yener concluded in his statement.

Yener also announced that the propaganda stage for runoff started as of Monday. He said final, formal results for the first round of the election will be announced on May 19 and voters abroad would be able to start voting on May 23.

Though this is the first time that he faced a runoff, President Erdogan is victorious anyway in Turkish politics as he has been over the past two decades. This was indeed his 16th victory in elections where he ran either as prime minister or president, along with victories in critical referendums in the same period.

A joyous Erdogan appeared at the terrace of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) headquarters in the capital Ankara in the early hours of Monday as a vibrant crowd waving flags and his posters eagerly awaited him.

Accompanied by first lady Emine Erdogan, the president burst into his campaign song “For Those Who Hear and Those Who Don’t,” a rendition of a well-known romantic song with lyrics emphasizing on mutual admiration between “Reis” (chief) as he is affectionately known among his supporters and a loyal electorate.

In his speech there, Erdogan has said they were waiting for the “outcome of the national will,” but they had a “clear lead, though unofficial results have been announced.” “Turkey has proven once again that it is among world’s leading democracies with its commitment to superiority of national will, freedom of its citizens in their political choices,” he added.

After an uneventful vote that ended at 5 p.m. local time, a tense night prevailed in Turkey as ballot boxes were opened. The opposition bloc of six parties repeatedly opposed the vote count, claiming their candidate Kilicdaroglu was ahead of incumbent President Erdogan. They contested the official results and cried foul over results announced by the public news agency Anadolu Agency (AA).

Both Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu called on their supporters to remain vigilant at the venues where votes were counted, “to stand guard at the ballot boxes.”

In the early hours of the vote count, Erdoğan criticized the opposition parties for claiming they were leading in the presidential and parliamentary elections while the vote count was still underway.

Erdogan slammed what he called a “robbery of political will” by the opposition in a tweet late Sunday. His statements came amid allegations from the opposition that the vote results were manipulated or delayed and amid pro-opposition media outlets publishing their own results.

“The May 14 elections were held in peace and have been a festival of democracy. It is a reflection of Türkiye’s democratic maturity. As we carried out the elections in such a positive and democratic atmosphere and as the votes are still being counted, rushing the declaration of the results means robbery of political will,” he said.

Erdogan said he was pleased with the reflection of the nation’s will in the ballots and urged his supporters to stay at the venues where ballots are being counted.

“The winner is, undoubtedly, our country, our nation. Turkey once again proved it is among the world’s leading democracies thanks to its adherence to the supremacy of national will. We proved it through a record turnout. It is unique in the world. This is the highest turnout in our history,” he highlighted.

He said statements of CHP administrators and “some mayors” did not change this fact. “In our political life, we have always respected the national will and we will do so in future elections too. The People’s Alliance knows what to do, and we expect the same democratic maturity from others,” he said.

“Some people are in the kitchen and here we are, on the balcony,” Erdogan told the vibrant crowd. Erdoğan had earlier mocked Kilicdaroglu for shooting videos in his house’s kitchen, instead of embracing people on the street.

“Our country wrapped up another festival of democracy. It seems like the count of votes across the country and abroad will take a little more time,” he said. “We are unlike those trying to deceive people. We know we have a clear lead but we await the manifestation of national will since official results are not clear yet,” he said. The president thanked “brothers and sisters” who voted for the People’s Alliance.

AK Party wins majority in parliament

The ruling AK Party has won 266 seats while opposition CHP coalition party won 166 in the 600-seat parliament, according to Anadolu Agency.

The People’s Alliance led by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan boasts success in Parliament after Sunday’s legislative elections.

Though the presidential race was neck-and-neck, parliamentary elections mirrored past votes for the alliance as it secured 15% more votes than its main rival, the Nation Alliance of Erdogan’s main rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

The People’s Alliance, which also includes the staunch AK Party ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the Grand Union Party (BBP) and the New Welfare Party (YRP), a new member of the bloc, emerged victorious in the elections. It secured around 50% of the vote, according to the unofficial results.

The victory of the People’s Alliance also helped the heads of two smaller parties win seats. Zekeriya Yapicioglu, chair of the Free Cause Party (HUDA-PAR), and Onder Aksakal, head of the Democratic Left Party (DSP), who was nominated under the AK Party, won parliamentary seats. YRP leader Fatih Erbakan, whose party members run under their own name in the legislative polls, was also elected to Parliament.

The MHP, on the other hand, secured a victory by gathering 10% of the vote, surprising pollsters who predicted it would fail to pass the 7% vote threshold required for parties to win parliamentary seats. Pundits say the strategy of the People’s Alliance to field their own candidates in the parliamentary vote apparently worked.

The opposition’s Nation Alliance has sought to avoid failure to win seats for its members by adding candidates of smaller members to the candidate list of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the most successful of the alliance.

The Good Party (IP), founded by former members of the MHP and seeking to attract disillusioned supporters of the nationalist party, had its hopes dashed in the parliamentary polls. It secured only 9% of the vote, becoming the fourth-largest party in a Parliament now dominated by the People’s Alliance.

The party had initially split from the Nation Alliance when Kilicdaroglu was fielded as a candidate but it returned to the six-party alliance a few days later, seemingly when the bloc accepted their offer to nominate two mayors it endorsed as future vice presidents.

Another “loser” of the election was the Green Left Party (YSP). Originally the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the party was a last-minute addition to the race when HDP administrators sought to avoid the risk of closure amid a lawsuit against the party accused of having ties with the PKK terrorist group.

Under its new name, however, the party saw its support slide to around 9%, from 11% in the past election. YSP spokesperson Cigdem Kilicgun Ucar acknowledged the failure at a news conference on Monday. Ucar said they failed to achieve their goals for the election.

Smaller political parties of the Nation Alliance also suffered losses in the elections. Anticipating high support, the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), the Future Party (GP) and the Felicity Party (SP) barely managed to garner 25% together with the CHP.

Elsewhere, the elections showed the support for the AK Party was unwavering in areas hit by Feb. 6 earthquakes, where the party was expected to “take a hit” for alleged shortcomings to respond to the disaster that killed thousands.

The AK Party and most other parties largely kept the number of lawmakers they had in the 11 provinces affected by the disaster.

In Adıyaman, Malatya and Hatay, the AK Party won four seats each. This put it ahead of the CHP, which only secured three seats, compared to the Green Left Party’s (YSP) eight seats in Diyarbakır. In Gaziantep and Sanlıurfa, the AK Party won eight seats each, far ahead of the CHP.

Opposition voters expressed dismay and disbelief on Monday over election losses, while the president’s overjoyed supporters expressed confidence that he would prevail in the May 28 runoff.

“Until now I have witnessed many elections. My 14-year-old daughter who waited up all night for the election results went to bed disappointed. They have left me devastated this time,” 55-year-old Menser Ozakdağ, a taxi driver, told Reuters in Istanbul.

In contrast, Erdogan voters were upbeat about his chances of extending his 20-year rule into a third decade in the runoff vote against Kilicdaroglu. “In the second round of the presidential election, Tayyip Erdogan will sweep to victory,” said retiree Sabri Şeker.

The mood in the opposition camp was subdued overnight as votes were being counted. The opposition had expected to benefit from voter anger over Turkey’s economic woes.

However, Firdevs Aydin, a 55-year-old retiree, did not share that optimism. “I am very disappointed. Even though I knew it could go to a second round, I also believed that Kilicdaroglu would be ahead of Erdogan (in the first round),” she said.