May 16, 2023

The British Middle East Eye website said, in a report published on Monday, that the results of the Turkish elections revealed a second round of the presidential elections that will be held on May 28, in which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won 49.40% of the vote, slightly less than the percentage required to achieve victory. From the first round after counting 99% of the votes. His main rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP), got just 44.96 percent of the vote.

But the real surprise was the ultra-nationalist presidential candidate, Sinan Ogan, who got 5.2% of the vote. One thing is for sure: senior Turkish officials from Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party were not surprised by the results.

Opinion polls diverge regarding Erdogan

Despite multiple polls indicating Kilicdaroglu is ahead and has little chance of winning in the first round, opinion polls for the AKP have diverged for weeks.

Turkish elections
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Seven opinion polls conducted in April 2023 by the party showed that Erdoğan had a two to three percentage point lead over Kilicdaroglu, and that there was a possibility of a run-off. Now these estimates have been validated.

Speaking to MEE, Turkish officials and sources close to Erdogan said they are confident he can easily win the run-off.

Erdogan’s strong position in the second round of Türkiye’s elections

While there are two major aspects to the second round, both give Erdogan a massive advantage.

The first is Parliament. When compared to the previous parliamentary elections held in 2018, we find that the Justice and Development Party lost 8% of the support, obtaining only 35.4% of the votes, thus winning 266 seats. However, its ally, the National Movement Party, lost only 1% compared to the 2018 elections, to keep it.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan/Reuters

With 10% of the vote, he wins 50 seats in parliament. In doing so, together with the Nationalist Movement Party, Erdogan retains the majority.

In a related context, Middle East Eye has previously learned from AKP officials that they believe that Erdogan retaining the majority could give him a psychological advantage over his rival if he is forced to run in a second round of the presidential elections. “The Turkish people do not like coexistence,” one official said at the time.

They also said they would draw on emotion, by presenting Erdogan’s last term to the people as crucial, and trying to convince the public that he deserved a final victory.

Sinan Ogan voices

But Erdogan has a second advantage: the people who vote for Sinan Ogan. An analysis conducted by Middle East Eye on Sunday evening, based on data from the Anadolu Agency, indicates that Oğan has subsisted on Erdogan’s vote share in central Anatolia.

Sinan Ogan
Turkish presidential candidate Sinan Ogan – Reuters

For example, Erdogan appears to have suffered a loss of 5.3% of the vote in the city of Konya, where he received 74.2% of the vote in 2018, while he now has 68.9%. Meanwhile, Ogan currently has 6.76% of the vote there.

In the city of Kayseri, Erdogan’s vote share appears to have decreased since 2018 by 6.6%. There, Ogan got 8.7%. Similarly, the city of Yozgat gave President Erdoğan 72.6% of its votes, while he received 75.5% of the votes five years ago. Ogan got there with 5.7% of the vote. In the city of Sivas, the percentage of votes granted to Erdogan decreased to 69.6%, compared to 72.3% in the previous elections. Ogan got 6.1% of the vote.

In these places, the share of votes awarded to Kilicdaroglu was either at the same levels as the opposition received in 2018, or 2-3% lower.

Economic hardship and anti-refugee sentiment

This analysis suggests that Erdogan voters somehow left him in favor of Ogan, perhaps due to economic hardship or anti-refugee sentiment.

Erdogan and the Western media
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with his wife Emine Erdogan during a rally before the presidential and parliamentary elections in Istanbul/Reuters

It is more likely that these voters will fall back into Erdoğan’s camp in the runoff, given that he mostly represents the Turkish nationalist side of the country if placed in a binary choice between him and Kilicdaroglu.

Erdogan also has other cards up his sleeve. Unlike Kilicdaroglu, he has not yet announced his choices for vice-presidential positions. He still has room to back down from his unorthodox monetary policy, which has been widely criticized by economists.

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