He ridiculed his challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, for his loss, saying “bye bye bye, Kemal” as supporters booed. “The only winner today is Turkiye,” Erdogan said.
Preliminary, unofficial results from Turkish news agencies showed Erdogan ahead with 98% of ballot boxes counted in a presidential runoff that will decide whether the country’s longtime leader stretches his increasingly authoritarian rule into a third decade. The state Anadolu news agency showed Erdogan at 52.1%, and his challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, at 47.9%. Meanwhile, the ANKA news agency, close to the opposition, showed the results at 51.9% for Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu at 48.1%. Earlier, the head of the High Election Board earlier told a news conference that Erdogan was leading Kilicdaroglu with 54.47% support, with 54.6% of ballot boxes logged.
In Istanbul, Erdogan supporters began celebrating even before the final results arrived, waving Turkish or ruling party flags, and honking car horns. There was no immediate response to Erdogan’s victory speech from his challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
Erdogan, who has been at Turkiye’s helm for 20 years, was favoured to win a new five-year term in the second-round runoff, after coming just short of outright victory in the first round on May 14. The divisive populist finished four percentage points ahead of Kilicdaroglu, the candidate of a six-party alliance. Erdogan’s performance came despite crippling inflation and the effects of a devastating earthquake three months ago. It was the first time he didn’t win an election where he ran as a candidate.
If he officially wins, Erdogan, 69, could remain in power until 2028. A devout Muslim, he heads the conservative and religious Justice and Development Party, or AKP. Erdogan transformed the presidency from a largely ceremonial role to a powerful office through a narrowly won 2017 referendum that scrapped Turkiye’s parliamentary system of governance. He was the first directly elected president in 2014, and won the 2018 election that ushered in the executive presidency.
The outcome could have implications far beyond Ankara. Turkiye 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 US to oust Turkiye from a US-led fighter-jet project. But it also helped broker a crucial deal that allowed Ukrainian grain shipments and averted a global food crisis.
The two candidates offered sharply different visions of the country’s future, and its recent past. Erdogan, head of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, appealed to voters with nationalist and conservative rhetoric during a divisive campaign that deflected attention from deep economic troubles. The defeat of Kilicdaroglu, who promised to set the country on a more democratic and collaborative path, would likely be cheered in Moscow but mourned in Western capitals and much of West Asia after Turkiye took a more confrontational and independent stance in foreign affairs.
Critics blame Erdogan’s unconventional economic policies for skyrocketing inflation that has fueled a cost-of-living crisis. Many also faulted his government for a slow response to the earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people.
But Erdogan has retained the backing of conservative voters who remain devoted to him for lifting Islam’s profile in the Turkiye, which was founded on secular principles, and for raising the country’s influence in world politics. AP