Erdoğan upsets opposition hopes of victory, run-off with Kılıçdaroğlu expected in Turkey’s presidential race

The incumbent People’s Alliance led by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) secured a majority with close to 50% of all votes and 321 seats in the 600-seat parliament. For the post of president, a run-off will most likely be held two weeks from now as neither Recep Tayyib Erdoğan nor Kemal Kılıçdaroğluere was able to secure 50%+1 votes

May 15, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Turkey elections
(Photo: Turkish presidency via TRT World)

In the Turkish parliamentary elections held on Sunday, May 14, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)-led People’s Alliance retained its majority. However, there was no clear winner in the presidential elections and a run-off is likely to be held between incumbent Recep Tayyib Erdoğan and his challenger Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. 

As per Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK), over 87.20% of the electorate or 55 million citizens voted in the elections. The results have defied public opinion surveys published prior to the vote which stated that Kılıçdaroğlu was ahead of Erdoğan. Kılıçdaroğlu was expected to also benefit from the withdrawal of Muharrem İnce, one of the four presidential candidates.   

The results have also dashed the opposition’s hope of benefiting from the serious popular grievances against Ergodan’s government, which include prolonged high inflation deepening the cost of living crisis, the issue of Syrian refugees, and the mismanagement of the February earthquake relief.  

Meanwhile, several opposition leaders have accused state broadcaster Anadolu Agency (AA) of misrepresenting and manipulating the presentation of the results. 

Presidential race 

For the post of president, a run-off will most likely be held two weeks from now as neither of the lead candidates were able to secure 50%+1 votes after counting of over 99% votes

Erdoğan emerged as the front runner with over 49.4% votes. He was contesting the election on the agenda of continuing his economic and foreign policies. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the joint candidate of the Nation Alliance led by the Republican People’s Party (CHP), who was leading in the pre-election surveys, failed to win even 45% of the votes. He was contesting on the agenda of “change” which included going back to the parliamentary system as well as radical changes in foreign policy with a pro-Western approach.  

Erdoğan’s government had brought a constitutional amendment in 2017, which was approved by a referendum, converting the country’s parliamentary system of governance into a presidential one.  

The third presidential candidate, Sinan Oğan, won over 5% of the votes, which surprised many election observers. Oğan is a former member of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and was the candidate of the far-right ATA alliance. 

The fourth candidate, Muharrum İnce, had withdrawn from the contest days before the vote, claiming a smear campaign against him by his former party (CHP) colleagues. 

Parliamentary election results 

In the parliamentary elections, the incumbent People’s Alliance led by the AKP secured a majority with close to 50% of all votes and 321 seats in the 600-seat parliament. The alliance however lost around 3% votes and 23 seats compared to the last elections held in 2018. 

As per the results, the AKP alone will have 266 seats. It had 295 seats in the last parliament. Its alliance partner MHP won 50 seats and another ally five seats. 

The opposition alliance won 213 seats—the CHP winning 169 and the iYi or Good Party winning 44 seats. The alliance obtained around 35% of the votes and saw a significant increase in seats, but could not reach the halfway mark. 

The Labour and Freedom Alliance led by the leftist People’s Democratic Party (HDP) won 66 seats, with the HDP alone securing 62 seats and Turkish Workers’ Party (TiP) winning four. It obtained around 10% of the total votes. 

The HDP was contesting the election under the banner Green Left Party (YSP) in order to avoid potential closure of the party due to a lawsuit.

Reacting on the results, the Communist Party of Turkiye (TKP) called it a “big deception.” It questioned the opposition led Nation alliance for failing to provide a real alternative to the AKP led government by not taking up the issues of “poverty, injustice and the devastation caused by earthquake.” It asserted that, “only the defense of secularism, anti-imperialism and questioning the deep inequality caused by the market economy would have mobilized the social base of the People’s Alliance [behind the opposition].”

The TKP will campaign to defeat Erdgoan in the run-off and ask its supporters to vote against him.