Turkey’s momentous Sunday May 28 presidential runoff is a head to head between incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan and opposition bloc candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Many analysts believe the very survival of what remains of the nation’s democracy is at stake, while there are fears that the crisis-stricken Turkish economy is in danger of collapse.
bne IntelliNews’ live blog will bring you updates throughout the rest of polling day, including the results and reaction. You will find the latest update at the top of the page. Scroll further down and you will find updates from the election eve build-up posted yesterday.
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And with Erdogan, re-elected for another five years, giving his triumphant speech to thousands of supporters gathered outside the Ankara presidential palace, there we end this live blog. Many thanks for joining us.
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It's officially all over. Chairman of Turkey’s Supreme Election Bouncil, Ahmet Yener, has announced that incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won Turkey’s presidency in a runoff election with 52.14% of the votes versus 47.86% for challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu, with 99.43% of the votes counted.
Yener said the gap between the two candidates stood at more than 2mn votes, meaning the votes yet to be counted could not affect the result.
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Kilicdaroglu has given a fiery speech (here, without translation apart from translatable text beneath video) not admitting defeat and condemning Erdogan's authoritarian regime and what he described as an unfair election.
"You should know that we will stand against those difficulties awaiting us," he said, urging supporters to continue the struggle for true democracy
The election showed the Turkish people’s will to change an “authoritarian” government despite all the pressures, he said. He expressed “real sadness” about what now awaited Turkey.
Describing the election process as the most unfair in years, Kilicdaroglu said: “All the means of the state were mobilised for one political party and laid at the feet of one man.”
He added: “I would like to thank the heads of the [opposition bloc] Nation Alliance, their organisations, our voters, and the citizens who protected the ballot boxes and fought against these immoral and unlawful pressures.”
“As a person of this land, I have always fought for your rights and justice, so that no one oppresses you, so that you can live in abundance, and I will continue to do so,” Kilicdaroglu added.
Meanwhile, a prominent mayor from Kilicdaroglu’s main opposition CHP has said the presidential challenger should step aside in favour of Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu leading the party.
“We thank Mr Kilicdaroglu for his efforts… but he was misled, especially in the first round, by three to five losers… who put their own interests ahead of the interests of the country,” said the mayor of Bolu province, Tanju Ozcan.“My historic call!!! Mr IMAMOGLU must immediately become the head of the CHP. Full stop,” he added.
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bne IntelliNews' Turkey correspondent says it is looking possible that Erdogan "will claim a tiny victory" and that there is no action from Kilicdaroglu's main opposition party CHP as regards this so far.
The latest results as presented by government-run news service Anadolu can be found here.
The CHP has urged supporters to continue guarding the count at the ballot boxes.
“According to our results, there is a head to head race. Keep doing your duty until this process is finished,” said CHP spokesperson Faik Oztrak.
Oztrack criticised Erdogan’s decision to give a victorious speech to his supporters from the balcony of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) HQ in Ankara, adding: “No one should try to muddy the waters with balcony speeches, our nation continues to receive information from us moment by moment. It looks like we have got one vote from every two voters in Turkey.”
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Seda Demiralp, professor of political science at Isik University in Istanbul, tells Al Jazeera closing of gap in results of vote can be expected in the coming hours.
“The gap is low, lower than expected, considering it’s [according to government news agency] Anadolu Agency, and also there are other sources that give more knife-edge results. I would say this is a more optimistic scenario to the opposition, because many were fearing in the opposition that Erdogan would win with a landslide victory [but this suggests it’s not going to happen],” Demiralp was quoted as saying.
“It looks like the gap can be closed in the upcoming hours. That’s what we saw in the previous round, that’s what we saw in 2018 elections. Typically we see Anadolu Agency starting incumbent votes with a much higher rate and the margin closes over the next hours. So, we may expect a similar change and a closing of the gap.”
Turkish news agencies gather their data from completed ballot box counts which come from personnel in the field.
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The broadcast ban on reporting early results has been lifted.
With 35% of "ballot boxes opened", the government-run Anadolu Agency (AA) news service reports that Erdogan has 58% of the vote and Kilicdaroglu 42%.
Vote turnout was 84.4%, AA added.
In the counting process, a high share of Erdogan strongholds are reporting first meaning the gap between Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu is expected to shrink as the voting progresses (see our 1518 entry below for some interesting observations about that).
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Well worth a read is the latest Twitter thread from @jamesinturkey. Unfortunately, we are currently afflicted by some odd bug that means when we link to a Twitter page something munches up our text, so we can't give you a link. But if you look him up on the platform you'll be there soon enough.
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Sorry, we do plan to get serious once more, but it occurs that if Erdogan is re-elected and Donald Trump wins in 2024, this fella could be back in the picture ...
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The polls have closed.
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By almost all anecdotal accounts so far, the runoff turnout seems significantly down on the May 14 first-round vote. Still, at least Spiderman turned up, as did a man in his sickbed.
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A group of around 50 people, including a mukhtar (village head), this morning attacked Ali Seker, a CHP opposition MP who represents Istanbul.
Mehmet Adnan Oncel, the CHP chairman of Eyyubiye town authority in southeastern Turkey near the border with Syria, told local TV channel TELE1 about the attack. It allegedly took place in nearby village Karaali.
Seker had apparently stood firm against “collective voting” for Erdogan, meaning the mass stamping of many ballots in favour of the president.
Such voting has become a widespread reality in Turkish elections. Each election, the opposition fails to deploy enough ballot box watchers to cover every location across the country. Some of those who try to stop the collective voting face physical assaults.
See more assaults that occurred during the morning hours in Urfa, southeastern Turkey, here or at @ronayipaydas.
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During the morning, many trolls and supporters of the Erdogan regime tweeted to complain that voter participation in their man’s strongholds was too low.
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The method was invented by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in Mexico in that country’s 1988 general election.
Video: The TV show "Narcos: Mexico" explains how the method was implemented. The attempt fails. Then, the narco cartel members directly force ballot box commissioners to write in high votes for the PRI.
In Turkey, the paper voting records are referred to as “minutes with a wet signature”. A big majority of the opposition pundits in Turkey believe that these records are reliable.
AA has in recent years announced favourable early results for the favoured candidate in all elections. Popular social forum EksiSozluk runs the described betting (see below) prior to each poll.
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Welcome back to bne IntelliNews’ TURKISH ELECTION LIVE blog.
Voting started at 0800 local time (0500 GMT) and is to set to finish at 1700 local time (1400 GMT). The outcome may become clear by early evening.
Turnout in the first-round of voting was officially 87%. Kemal Kilicdaroglu will be hoping his supporters, despite the disappointment at his first-round defeat, can sustain a high turnout to give him a chance of overturning Recep Tayyp Erdogan’s win two weeks ago of 49.5% to 44.9%.
Erdogan cast his vote in Istanbul, while Kilicdaroglu voted at a polling station in Ankara.
“I think the vote counting process will be very fast today. It is important to see such elections for the presidency for the Turkish democracy,” Erdogan said after voting.
“Participation at 90 percent is typical in the first round. Turkey affirmed its adherence to democracy with a 90 percent participation in the elections. I hope that the results of the elections will be good for Turkey. We appeal to voters to go to the polls and adhere to democracy,” he added.
After casting his vote, Kilicdaroglu said: “In order to get rid of the tyrannical regime and in order to establish real democracy, I appeal to all citizens to go to the polling stations.
“These elections are taking place under difficult conditions due to attempts at deception, but I believe that citizens are free and willing to go to the polls.”
AND THERE, WE'RE CLOSING THIS LIVE BLOG until we return tomorrow (Sunday May 28) for the final hours leading up to the announcement of the winner of Turkey's critical presidential election. Many thanks for joining us today.
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A quick roundup of some of the key manifesto pledges made by the candidates and something from the final rallies from Al Jazeera here and below.
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Will Kilicdaroglu galvanize his voting base?
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Everyone who loves Turkey must vote, Kilicdaroglu said in eve-of-election comments posted on Twitter, urging Turks: "If you really want it, we'll all get out of this dark pit together."
"I am calling to all our people regardless of their view or lifestyle. This is the last exit. Everyone who loves their country should go to the ballot box!" he added.
Erdogan, at his last rally, addressing flag-waving supporters in Istanbul's Beykoz district in Istanbul, was reported by Reuters as saying: “"Are we running to the polls tomorrow? Will we cast our votes from the early hours in the morning? We will not miss anyone that voted in the first round."
"We will encourage people who could not go [to the ballot box in the first round]. Will we complete the work that we left unfinished on May 14, with an overwhelming majority, hopefully by making the gap even wider [that it was in my first-round victory] tomorrow?"
Though there was a turnout of 87%, around 8mn voters did not vote in the first round of the presidential poll, officially won by Erdogan 49.5%-to-44.9%, or by a margin of around 2.5mn votes.
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Despite Kilicdaroglu’s somewhat desperate lurch to the right in a last gasp bid to find votes by promising the expulsion of millions of Syrian refugees, the pro-Kurdish parties have opted to stick with their endorsement of him.
Dismissing the protocol Kilicdaroglu signed with far right Victory Party leader Umit Ozdag in return for an endorsement, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Pervin Buldan, standing alongside prominent Kurdish politician Ahmet Turk who defined the runoff vote as “a referendum between fascism and democracy,” said on Friday—as reported by MedyaNews—that “Erdogan’s exit is crucial for Turkey’s path to peace.”
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For Erdogan, clinching the executive presidency would mean he will be in charge of the country for another five years, while also enjoying a comfortable majority in parliament.
If enough demoralised opposition voters don’t turn up for the second-round vote, Erdogan could win with 54-55% of votes cast, according to Wolfgang Piccoli at political risk consultancy Teneo.
In a somewhat desperate move, Kilicdaroglu has taken a big turn to the right, pushing a hardline “Kick out migrants” policy in a bid to secure voters who back the ultra-nationalist anti-migrant Victory Party.
It’s an “ill-thought move”, according to Piccoli, which has already created cracks both within his own Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the wider Nation Alliance.
The move will likely also cost Kilicdaroglu votes in the Kurdish-dominated southeastern provinces, even though the Kurdish parties essentially decided this week that they have no choice but to stick with him despite his concessions to the Victory Party.
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Jason Corcoran earlier this week filed this piece for bne IntelliNews from Izmir.
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Erdogan casts his voting paper in the May 14 elections (Credit: Reuters video, screengrab).
When the official results came through on the first-round presidential vote, the outcome was demoralising for many Kilicdaroglu supporters. The opinion polls and pundits had portrayed Kilicdaroglu as on course for a groundbreaking victory.
Some analysts were convinced it was time for “Bye, bye Erdogan”.
“In interviews with journalists, opposition officials, and even bureaucrats, there was almost a blind conviction that this was Erdogan’s last stand,” wrote Asli Aydintasbas in a “Letter from Istanbul”, published six weeks prior to the first vote.
She added: “So over-confident were they about the possibility of an opposition victory that of the dozens of friends and acquaintances I met in Istanbul, only two — one journalist and one media executive — said they believed Erdogan would win it in the end.”
Some observers of Turkey note ongoing disquiet that the May 14 polls could have been impacted by major ballot box fraud. There are ongoing efforts to obtain and dig into missing data. More may emerge on this issue in weeks to come.
For now though, it would seem Kilicdaroglu’s only hope of victory is a turnaround so immense that any substantial voting fraud wouldn’t stand in his way. Talk about a long shot.
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Credit (Turkish presidency).
The Manchester Evening News has released details of football fan parks for Man City fans travelling to Istanbul for the Champions League Final versus Inter Milan on Saturday June 10.
ADVISORY: When in Turkey, fan parks yes, fun parks, show a little more caution, particularly if someone suggests a detour to Ankapark, a giant $800mn theme park launched by President Erdogan in 2019.
Late renamed Wonderland Eurasia, the park, with 17 rollercoasters, was closed permanently in 2020 after safety fears over some of its rides and other difficulties caused low visitor numbers.
Its most memorable moment came when then mayor of Ankara Melih Gokcek was pictured stuck on top of one of the rollercoasters.
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MedyaNews reported on suspicions that Erdogan’s AKP party had planted hostile questioners in the studio audience, but Kilicdaroglu’s gamble in accepting the invitation to appear on BaBaLa seemed to pay off.
The “Issues, Open Mic” broadcast had reached around 24mn views by Friday. Turkey has a population of 85mn.
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Let’s start with an incisive intervention from opposition Mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu (below) that clearly struck a nerve with president seeking re-election Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Imamoglu warned that if Erdogan wins the election, then on Monday morning some Turks might struggle to withdraw money from their bank.
“If we don’t want a process where the crisis is deeply felt at the banks on Monday in which the nation cannot withdraw its money, we have to work hard [to elect Kilicdaroglu],” Imamoglu said in Istanbul.
Erdogan hit back, saying the opposition was “fear-mongering”, saying in a May 26 interview with AHaber television: “Can you tell me who hasn’t been able to withdraw his money from the bank over the past 21 years [that I have been Turkey’s leader]?”
Imamoglu, who would serve as one of several vice-presidents if there was a Kilicdaroglu administration, knows there is plenty of anxiety to tap over potential financial turmoil that would follow an Erdogan win (see here for bne IntelliNews’ assessment of possible “economic bombs” that could detonate). Prior to the weekend, for the first time ever, the Turkish lira ended the trading week as weak as 20 to the dollar).
Earlier this week, Turkey’s banking regulators warned media outlets that statements “contrary to the facts” on the country’s banking system would constitute a crime and legal action would be taken against those spreading such statements.