Turkey Tries Again to Elect a Leader

Erdogan favored to stay in office after high-stakes runoff Sunday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 28, 2023 8:00 AM CDT
Turkey Tries Again to Elect a Leader
Turkish CHP party leader and National Alliance's presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, and his wife Selvi Kilicdaroglu, vote at a polling station in Ankara, Turkey.   (AP Photo/Ali Unal)

Voters in Turkey returned to the polls Sunday to decide whether the country’s longtime leader stretches his increasingly authoritarian rule into a third decade, or is unseated by a challenger who has promised to restore a more democratic society, per AP. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been at Turkey’s helm for 20 years, is favored to win a new five-year term in the second-round runoff, after coming just short of an outright victory in the first round on May 14. The divisive populist finished four percentage points ahead of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the candidate of a six-party alliance and leader of Turkey’s center-left main opposition party. Erdogan’s performance came despite crippling inflation and the effects of a devastating earthquake three months ago.

The two candidates offered sharply different visions. “This election took place under very difficult circumstances, there was all sorts of slander and defamation,” the 74-year-old Kilcdaroglu (pronounced KEH-lich-DAHR-OH-loo) told reporters. “But I trust in the common sense of the people. Democracy will come, freedom will come, people will be able to wander the streets and freely criticize politicians.” Speaking to reporters after casting his vote in Istanbul, Erdogan noted that it’s the first presidential runoff election in Turkey’s history. He also praised high voter turnout in the first round and said he expected participation to be high again on Sunday. “I pray to God, that it (the election) will be beneficial for our country and nation,” he said.

More than 64 million people are eligible to cast ballots. Preliminary results are expected to come within hours of the polls closing at 10am Eastern time. The final decision could have implications far beyond Ankara. Turkey stands at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and it plays a key role in NATO. Erdogan's government vetoed Sweden’s bid to join NATO and purchased Russian missile-defense systems, which prompted the United States to oust Turkey from a U.S.-led fighter-jet project. But under Erdogan, Turkey also helped broker a crucial deal that allowed Ukrainian grain shipments and averted a global food crisis.

(More Recep Tayyip Erdogan stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.