What’s going on with the presidential election in Turkey between Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu?

What’s going on with the presidential election in Turkey between Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu?
Erdogan vs Kilicdaroglu – the two men vying for Turkish presidency

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current anti-LGBTQ+ president of Turkey, is looking to hold on to power he’s exercised for almost two decades as the country’s latest presidential election continues, but a second vote or ‘run-off’ could make that a little more difficult for him.

No candidate passed the 50 per cent threshold required to win outright in the first round, with Erdogan securing 49.4 per cent of the vote and opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu just a little bit behind with 45 per cent – after 99.4 per cent of domestic votes and 84 per cent of overseas votes were counted.

So, who is Kemal Kilicdaroglu?

He’s the 74-year-old leader of the centre-left Republican People’s Party (also known as the CHP) who’s managed to unite opposition parties under one Nation Alliance. That’s made up of nationalist, centre-right and Islamist parties, as well as two which splintered from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party.

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The Nation Alliance wants to ditch the current presidential system introduced by Erdogan in 2017 in favour of a “strong parliamentary system”, and looks to grant increased rights and freedoms to citizens.

What do both parties make of the run-off?

Incumbent president Erdogan has said the fact “that the election results have not been finalised doesn’t change the fact that the nation has chosen us”, and that “the winner has undoubtedly been our country”.

He also accused his main competitor of colluding with “terrorists” as a result of having the backing of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party, and supporting “deviant” LGBTQ rights.

Kilicdaroglu, meanwhile, has insisted “we will absolutely win the second round … and bring democracy”, and called on his supporters to not “lose hope” as “we will get up and win this election together”.

He’s also fired off accusations of his own, as he’s claimed Russia has spread conspiracies and deepfakes in the run up to the election.

An Erdogan victory would be perfect for Russian president Vladimir Putin, as he’s been a close ally to the Kremlin during his time in office, saying back in September that Putin is “actually showing me that he’s willing to end [the war in Ukraine] as soon as possible”.

Who is Sinan Ogan, and how could he be a “kingmaker”?

With such a narrow margin between Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu after most of the votes in the first round, every vote for one of these candidates is a pretty big help, and so any of Ogan’s 5.17 per cent of the vote share could be monumental if the candidate backs one of the main two contenders.

Kilicdaroglu has a problem though, because as mentioned previously, he has the support of a pro-Kurdish party, while 55-year-old Ogan is taking a pretty strong nationalist stance and wants the two Kurdish parties in Turkey out of the “political equation”.

This is also a man who said if he was elected, he would consider sending Syrian refugees back to the country “by force if necessary”…

Wait, Elon Musk has gotten involved?

Yep. Ahead of the election, Twitter’s Global Government Affairs account tweeted on Saturday: “In response to the legal process and to ensure Twitter remains available to the people of Turkey, we have taken action to restrict access to some content in Turkey today.

“We have informed the account holders of this action in line with our policy.”

It’s not clear which accounts these are, but given Musk loves himself some ‘free speech absolutism”, one Twitter user criticised the move as the platform bowing down to a request from Erdogan’s government to “censor its opponents”.

Musk replied: “Did your brain fall out of your head, Yglesias? The choice is to have Twitter throttled in its entirety or limit access to some tweets. Which one do you want?”

So, when’s the run-off?

It’s scheduled for 28 May, so we’ve got a little while to wait…

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