Türkiye will hold a historic second round of elections with Erdogan at the helm

Turkey Elections Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Following the scrutiny of more than 99 percent of the votes in the presidential and legislative elections in Turkey, the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, collected 49.4 percent, and his main opponent 44.95 percent; a better result than expected for the head of state, whom the latest polls placed at a disadvantage.

Erdogan thus lost the absolute majority in the first round of the presidential elections, the Ankara electoral authorities officially announced. The president of the Electoral Commission, Ahmet Yener, indicated that with the count practically finished, none of the candidates will manage to exceed 50% of the votes.

To the opposition, which on Sunday claimed to be “in the lead”, these figures felt like a cold shower. “If our nation says a second round, we will absolutely win in the second round,” Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, who leads a broad coalition of six opposition parties, said this Monday morning (05.15.2023), stating that “the will for change in society is bigger than 50 percent.”

Erdogan, re-elected in 2018 in the first round of the presidential elections, also appeared on Sunday night before a crowd of supporters. “I sincerely believe that we will continue to serve our people in the next five years,” launched Erdogan, who has been in power since 2003.

In addition, his formation, the Justice and Development Party (AKP, Islamoconservative), seems to be in a position to retain its majority in Parliament. In recent weeks, Erdogan made several electoral promises aimed at curbing the high inflation that plagues the country and that seemed to work against him.

Battle of figures “until the end”

Turkey’s 64 million voters turned out en masse, bringing the provisional turnout rate to almost 90 percent. Late into the night, both sides waged a battle of numbers, urging their respective observers to stay at the counting stations “until the end.”

Kiliçdaroglu’s side did not take long to refute the first figures, which gave Erdogan a comfortable advantage, stating that the results of the most favorable polling stations for the opposition candidate had not yet been counted due to the multiple appeals presented, which slowed down the counting. .

Kiliçdaroglu supporters in the streets.

The outcome of the second round will depend in part on a third man, the nationalist Sinan Ogan, who collected about 5% of the vote on Sunday. At the moment, he has not yet called his supporters to vote for either of the two candidates.

Turkey is part of NATO and is in a strategic location – it has a Black Sea coast to the north and is bordered by Iran, Iraq and Syria to the south – and the elections aroused great interest as to whether the country would remain under the control of an increasingly authoritarian president or if he could take a more democratic path advocated by Kilicdaroglu.

The stock market and the lyre fall

Amid this uncertainty, the Istanbul Stock Exchange opened the day with an initial drop of 6 percent, but recovered slightly after authorities halted trading to prevent a stock sell-off, a mechanism the stock exchange has frequently applied. in the last year. 

Meanwhile, the lira oscillated around 19.6 units per dollar, its worst historical value, saving a momentary drop from last Friday that reached similar levels, and marking an accumulated loss of 1 percent since the beginning of the month.

Since last summer, the lira has gradually lost value against the dollar, with only minor fluctuations, and many Turkish analysts warn that the Turkish Central Bank is keeping the exchange rate artificially stable through interventions and restrictions on foreign currency purchases by the companies.

Indeed, in recent weeks, moneychangers in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar have begun offering exchange rates that differ from the official rates for the first time in decades, with the lira up to 10 percent cheaper than at the bank.