The Speaker
Friday, 23 February 2024 – 19:42

Turkish election heading for runoff

The Turkish election is heading into a runoff, with incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan enjoying a commanding lead over his rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Erdoğan has held the presidency of Turkey for almost a decade and was previously prime minister from 2003 to 2014. His rule has been characterised by a centralised power structure that has consolidated authority within his own office, prompting concerns about authoritarianism.

In the initial round of voting, Erdoğan secured the largest percentage of the vote, with 49.4%, falling just shy of the threshold required for a first-round victory. His closest rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, secured 43.1% of the vote, while Sinan Oğan came in third with 5.2%. It is widely expected that a significant portion of Oğan’s votes will shift towards Erdoğan in the runoff, potentially propelling the incumbent over the 50% mark necessary for victory.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has campaigned on a promise to restore power to the Turkish Parliament and decentralize authority, aiming to counterbalance the centralized governance that has characterized Erdoğan’s tenure. Kılıçdaroğlu’s appeal has grown significantly, particularly in the aftermath of the earthquakes that devastated Turkey and Syria earlier in the year, resulting in the tragic loss of approximately 50,783 lives.

Support from many opposition parties began to coalesce around Kılıçdaroğlu due to growing dissatisfaction with Erdoğan’s rule. The President has largely centralised power in the office of the presidency and has followed an increasingly Islamist agenda. This has become unpopular, primarily in the country’s urban areas.

The election was largely seen as the biggest threat to the incumbent President since he had come to power, with many projecting that Kılıçdaroğlu’s could secure victory.

The Turkish election runoff system, also known as the two-round system, comes into play when no candidate secures an absolute majority (50% + 1 vote) in the initial round of voting. The primary goal of the runoff system is to ensure that the winning candidate enjoys the support of the majority, thereby enhancing the legitimacy and democratic nature of the election outcome.

After the initial round, which features multiple candidates, the two leading contenders advance to a second round, which must take place within two weeks of the initial vote. In the second round, voters are presented with a choice between the two candidates who garnered the highest number of votes in the first round. The candidate who secures the majority of votes in the second round emerges as the winner of the election.

In addition to Erdoğan’s performance in the presidential race, his Justice and Development Party (AKP) also achieved success in the parliamentary elections, securing the largest number of representatives in the Turkish Parliament. With this parliamentary majority, the AKP is now widely expected to strengthen its position and is favored to secure victory for Erdoğan in the second round of the presidential election.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, a retired civil servant, has been the main opposition leader in Turkey for over a decade. His Republican People’s Party has garnered considerable support, particularly in major urban centers, where they secured victories in local government elections in Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir.

The outcome of the Turkish election runoff will have significant implications for the country’s political landscape and the future trajectory of governance. As voters prepare for the final round of voting, the contest between Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu will determine whether the current centralized power structure endures or if a shift towards a more decentralized approach takes place in Turkey’s political landscape.

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