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What could happen ahead of Turkiye’s election runoff

May 16, 2023 at 9:30 pm

Turkish President and Leader of the Justice and Development (AK) Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets the crowd outside his residence located at Uskudar district of Kisikli Istanbul, Turkiye on May 14, 2023 [TUR Presidency/Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Anadolu Agency]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has failed to secure victory in the first round of the Turkish presidential elections, after receiving 49.5 per cent of the votes. A second round of the election is now due to be held and he will face the Nation’s Alliance candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who gained the second highest percentage of votes, at 44.89 per cent.

There are several scenarios that could influence voters’ decisions in the next ballot.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s alliance with Sinan Ogan

The Ancestral Alliance candidate, Sinan Ogan, who garnered 5.17 per cent of the votes (over 2.8 million votes), alluded to the possibility of supporting Kilicdaroglu in the rerun. However, he stipulated that no concessions should be made to the Kurdish Green Left Party, which supports the Nation’s Alliance.

According to expert calculations, if Ogan’s votes were transferred to Kilicdaroglu, the latter would gain 50.06 per cent of the vote, which would enable him to win the presidential race. However, Ogan’s condition means Kilicdaroglu could lose at least ten per cent of his support base.

This scenario remains largely improbable, as its implementation would mean a decline in Kilicdaroglu’s backing from 44.89 per cent to 34.35 per cent.

The collapse of the Opposition Alliance

The return to a reinforced parliamentary system was the “backbone” of the Table of Six alliance, but the loss of the parliamentary majority in favour of the People’s Alliance has shuffled the opposition’s cards, which only managed to secure 278 seats out of 600. This ratio does not allow it to make decisions within the council.

The opposition’s failure to win a parliamentary majority threatens to push voters to either support Erdogan or boycott the election, particularly as, if Kilicdaroglu wins and the presidential system remains for five more years, this would violate the agreements made between parties.

READ: Turkiye set for presidential runoff, as neither Erdogan nor Kilicdaroglu secure 50% of the vote

Leaders of opposition parties agree on the necessity of removing Erdogan from power, which weakens the likelihood of this scenario occurring in the foreseeable future.

According to the preliminary results of the parliamentary elections, the People’s Alliance won 321 seats – 49.37 per cent, the Nation Alliance won 213 seats – 35.12 per cent, and the Labour and Freedom Alliance won 66 seats – 10.5 per cent.

Muharrem Ince’s support of Erdogan

Despite announcing his withdrawal from the presidential race days before the first round, Homeland Party leader Muharrem Ince won 0.4 per cent of the vote (equivalent to 239,000 votes), a rate that could bring Erdogan closer to winning the presidential race.

Calculations show that Erdogan needed about 274,000 votes to win the presidential elections in the first round.

Some 27,088,360 votes were in favour of Erdogan, a lead of 2,520,164 over his closest rival, Kilicdaroglu, who garnered 24,568,196 votes. In contrast, the electoral bloc of Ince cannot impact Kilicdaroglu’s result, as he needs more than five per cent to reach a 50 per cent threshold.

Ince said he had withdrawn from the vote after receiving threats.

An infographic titled 'Presidential election results' created in Ankara, Turkiye on May 15, 2023 [Elmurod Usubaliev - Anadolu Agency]

An infographic titled ‘Presidential election results’ created in Ankara, Turkiye on May 15, 2023 [Elmurod Usubaliev – Anadolu Agency]

Invalid votes

The number of invalid votes after the preliminary count both within and outside Turkiye reached 1,036,565, a rate that could significantly change the result of the election.

If the invalid votes are reduced and shared between both candidates, the result will be in favour of Erdogan, who needs approximately 274,000 votes if the historical participation rate, around 56 million votes, remained unchanged.

However, this scenario seems unlikely to happen in the second round, especially as most studies confirm that runoff elections typically witness a diminished turnout, particularly from the parties that have exited the presidential race.

The Head of the Supreme Election Board, Ahmet Yener, said the domestic participation rate in the elections reached 88.92 per cent, while it registered 52.69 per cent abroad.

Table of Six collapse

Reaching a second round of the presidential elections does not mean that the candidates exhausted their promises or election surprises. Both Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu are striving to reignite the enthusiasm of their supporters during a brief period not exceeding 15 days.

READ: Voting ends in Turkiyes presidential, parliamentary elections

Interestingly, Erdogan, in his election campaign, touched upon the issue of a leaked meeting between Kilicdaroglu and the Fethullah Terrorist Organisation, accused of orchestrating the failed coup in Turkiye in 2016. Preliminary information suggests that Kilicdaroglu met with members of the organisation during his visit to the United States a few months ago.

Nation’s Alliance candidate Kilicdaroglu has, however, denied such a meeting took place.

In case Erdogan exploits this electoral card in his campaign ahead of the runoff, the opposition alliance’s Table of Six may dramatically collapse, significantly impacting the decisions of Turkish voters.

Afterall, Turkish citizens thwarted the coup attempt after heading to the streets and airports, following a call to action by Erdogan.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.