Elections in Turkey: results and second-tour prospects

, by Eva Karaduman

All the versions of this article: [English] [italiano]

Elections in Turkey: results and second-tour prospects
Sinan Oğan in March 2023. Credits: Yıldız Yazıcıoğlu, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

On May 14th, Turkish citizens were called to vote for the next President of the Turkish Republic. No less than 55 million citizens went to the polls to vote.

After long hours of waiting, creating almost unbearable suspense, the Turkish Supreme Electoral Council published the official results: Incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won 49.50% of the votes against 44.9% for the main opposition candidate Kemal Kiliçdaroglu.

The results are a surprise for those who were religiously following the polling institutes. The MAK Institute, for example, gave Kemal Kiliçdaroglu as the winner with more than 50% of the votes. The same goes for the Turkish polling institute Konda, which announced the opposition candidate as the winner. For Erdoğan, it is clear that Western media failed to influence public opinion. The two candidates who made it to the second round are separated by only a few percentage points, although that still represents a few million votes.

Despite a context of economic tensions and humanitarian challenges linked to the earthquake, the Turkish population continues to show strong attachment to the current President. However, his “victory” is a little less obvious than in past elections: Indeed, in the last elections of 2014 and 2018, the AKP party candidate won the presidential election in the first round with more than 50% of the votes.

If the results prove a strong attachment to the president, they also reflect a slight loss of confidence towards him. This second round is therefore an unprecedented situation.

Sinan Oğan, the third way

Although he does not have the same amount of popularity in comparison with his two other opponents, Sinan Oğan still obtained 5.17% of the vote - which represents almost 3 million voters. With his anti-migrant rhetoric and his support for the “great replacement” theory, the far-right candidate was able to convince Turkish citizens who could not find themselves in either Erdoğan’s or Kiliçdaroglu’s discourse. It is true that in a country that is suffering economically, Organ’s ultra-nationalist discourse is all the rage. He advocates a unitary Turkey and is totally opposed to alliances with Kurdish parties.

The voting geography of Turkey

A day after the first round results, the New York Times published a map of the results of the presidential election. As can be seen, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu took the major Turkish cities: Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya, Izmir... However, Gaziantep and Sanliurfa - although hit hard by the earthquake - voted in majority for Erdoğan, the same for the Anatolian region, a loyal conservative bastion.

According to the Jean Jaurès Foundation, the current economic conditions have had little influence on the Islamo-conservative vote, as identity issues are also a priority for the Turkish population, which is keen on Erdoğan’s figure to defend traditionalist values.

A new Parliament, mostly right-wing

In addition to voting for the new President, Turks were also invited on May 14 to choose the next 600 members of Parliament. The People’s Alliance (a coalition of right-wing parties including the AKP) will dominate the Turkish Grand National Assembly, winning 322 seats. The Alliance of the Nation (liberal parties), on the other hand, obtained 213 seats. Despite the high scores of the “Table of Six”, Erdoğan still has an absolute majority in Parliament, with more than half of the seats.

However, it is important to highlight that since 2017 Turkey is no longer a parliamentary system. Thus, the Parliament has less power in decision making.

What can we expect in the second round?

Since May 20, the Turkish diaspora around the world has been going to the polls to vote. The national election will take place on May 28.

In the meantime, the two opponents are holding talks, speeches and declarations to put all the chances on their side.

A radicalized speech from the “liberal” candidate?

In a video published on Twitter on May 17, entitled “Türkiye için” or “For Turkey”, the opposition candidate opted for a more radical nationalist discourse that shows a real change of tone in this electoral inter-trial. Indeed, in this video, he indirectly accused the government of letting “10 millions of refugees” enter Turkey, inflating - by a few million - the real number of refugees in Turkey. If this is clearly an electoral strategy to put an end to the Erdoğan era, one may wonder if it is the right one to take power.

The mission of the president of the Republican People’s Party is to win the loyalty of an electorate and to attract another one that is not yet convinced.

From Erdoğan... to Erdoğan?

After a few days of reflection, Sinan Oğan, the third-place candidate, called on his voters to vote for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. While the incumbent President was already ahead of Kemal Kiliçdaroglu by a few points, does this decision ensure victory for the AKP candidate? Are the 5% of voters who chose the third way ready to give their confidence to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the next 5 years? Only the results of May 28 will be able to answer this question... Despite the lead of the conservative camp, no hasty answer could be given knowing that the first round was already full of surprises!

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