Run-off vote in Turkey: who will become president?

Because neither candidate won an absolute majority in the first round of the Turkish presidential elections, a run-off vote will be held on 28 May. In the first round incumbent Erdoğan (49.5 percent) beat opposition candidate Kılıçdaroğlu (44.9 percent). The ultra-nationalist Sinan Oğan, whose voters could now tip the balance, garnered 5.2 percent of the vote. Europe’s press sees the chances of a change of government receding into the distance.

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Voters want stability

The fact that Erdoğan’s alliance was able to defend its majority in the parliamentary elections will make things difficult for the opposition in the presidential race, De Volkskrant believes:

“Many citizens value political stability. That would be at risk if the president does not come from the camp of the parliamentary majority, a situation referred to as ‘cohabition’ in France. This concern could give the president additional momentum in the run-up to 28 May. Over the next two weeks, the need for stability will undoubtedly be stressed by Erdoğan’s popular alliance. And the same scenario of cohabitation may put the opposition Nation Alliance in a difficult position if Kiliçdaroglu is elected president in the second round after all.”

Rob Vreeken
The Guardian (GB) /

A tall order for Kılıçdaroğlu

The Guardian also sees the challenger facing an uphill battle:

“Mr Kılıçdaroğlu’s race is not yet run. But a combination of incumbency advantage, and the momentum provided by the AKP’s win in parliament, means that Mr Erdoğan is now likely to extend his increasingly autocratic rule into a third decade. ... Mr Kılıçdaroğlu’s deflated alliance has two weeks to shift the dial in a presidential race that has confounded its expectations. In the context of a hostile media overwhelmingly biased in favour of Mr Erdoğan, that will be a very tall order.”

Revista 22 (RO) /

Erdoğan can count on the diaspora

Revista 22 comments:

“The results show that in Anatolia, in northern Turkey, as well as in the diaspora, the traditional Erdoğan strongholds remain intact. In France, almost 70 percent of Turks voted for him — almost seven percent more than in 2018. In Germany a clear majority of the community — consisting mainly of Anatolians living far from Turkey’s massive inflation — voted for Erdoğan. ... Their sensitivities are mainly identity-based, and they are seduced by Erdoğan’s prestige foreign policy. Only the Turkish community in Sweden punished Erdoğan with its vote, but in doing so it risks further radicalising Turkey’s position on Sweden’s Nato accession.”

Stefan Popescu
T24 (TR) /

Nationalism on the rise

T24 comments:

“Erdoğan, in particular recently, has used language focusing on nationalism rather than on ‘religion’ and equating the opposition with ‘terror and terrorists’ while referring to his alliance and voters as ‘patriots’. ... The second largest party in the Nation Alliance is the İYİ ‘urban nationalists’. ... And the [ultra-nationalist] Ata Alliance under Sinan Oğan achieved 5.3 percent in the presidential election. ... In all three alliances, nationalism either formed the main ideological vein or played a key role. This nationalist wave was overlooked by a large segment of people, especially the polling companies.”

Murat Sabuncu
Le Figaro (FR) /

Will the autocrat be placated?

Erdoğan’s re-election could also serve to make him moderate his authoritarian style somewhat, Le Figaro speculates:

“The election also shows that Turkey’s strongman is never so weak as when he is afraid of his people and tries to muzzle them. Would a third term for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan exacerbate his autocratic rule? Europeans and Nato allies must be prepared for this, but they would not complain about a president in Ankara who is somewhat placated by his new legitimacy.”

Philippe Gélie
Polityka (PL) /

A lab for testing how to deal with populists

Polityka eagerly awaits the second round:

“Turkey’s future will depend not only on the outcome of the run-off vote on 28 May. With a victory against the authoritarian, nationalist Recep Erdoğan, who promotes autocracy and despises the freedoms of liberal democracy, the opposition would send a strong signal to the world that such politicians can be defeated. And that this can be achieved even when the playing field is not level and there can be no question of it having been a fair election campaign from the outset. At the same time, Turkey would then become a huge social and political laboratory for state repair after populist rule. Today, we still rely on theoretical models in this regard.”

Mateusz Mazzini
Naftemporiki (GR) /

A vote on relations with the EU

Turkey’s relationship with the EU is the key issue for voters, Naftemporiki comments:

“Perhaps no one has summed up the dilemma of the elections as well as the current Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ: ‘People will either celebrate with champagne or swear an oath to God on the prayer mat.’ ... To say that relations between Brussels and Turkey have cooled would be an understatement. They are at the freezing point. There has not been a single serious attempt in Brussels to revive the accession negotiations for years. From the Commission’s point of view this is pointless as long as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is at the head of the Turkish power apparatus.”

Michalis Psilos
De Tijd (BE) /

Who can save the economy?

What counts most for citizens is the economy, De Tijd notes:

“Beyond all the strategic and geopolitical issues, in the end the economic situation remains the top priority for Turks. Skyrocketing inflation has wiped out the economic success of Erdoğan’s first years. How to get the economy get back on track is not clear, no candidate has a proper recipe for that. For Turkey, however, it will make a difference. The story of the key elections in 2023 is not over yet. And the final outcome will also be of key importance for Europe.”

Jean Vanempten
Večernji list (HR) /

Women and first-time voters decisive

There is still a lot at stake in this election, Večernji list stresses:

“Analysts are convinced that the votes of women were decisive in opposing Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, which protects women from violence. ... Women are the most influential group in these elections — along with six million young first-time voters whose votes could also be decisive. The whole world is eagerly watching these elections and their outcome, which will directly influence the geopolitical power structure and balance in the context of the military conflict between the Eastern and Western blocs playing out on Ukraine’s territory.”

Hassan Haidar Diab
Milliyet (TR) /

Democratic duty fulfilled

Milliyet praises the high turnout and peaceful voting process:

“Citizens queued up with their ballots in hand to determine both the president and the deputies who will be represented in Turkey’s Grand National Assembly, fulfilling their civic duty to the tune of 87.6 percent. In Izmir yesterday, we saw large crowds queuing up from the early hours of the morning. We saw that disabled and elderly people in particular were making an effort to vote, that many of them were excited, some making their way to the schools in wheelchairs and some on crutches. ... It also made us all happy that there were no major negative incidents.”

Engin Uğur Ağır