Turkey's shaken voters may jolt Erdogan's strong rule in post-quake vote

Erdogan, 69 and a veteran of a dozen election victories says he respects democracy and denies being a dictator

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Supporters of the Green Left Party (YSP) wave flags and cheer during a campaign rally in Istanbul, on May 13, 2023. — AFP
Supporters of the Green Left Party (YSP) wave flags and cheer during a campaign rally in Istanbul, on May 13, 2023. — AFP

The Turkish people cast their vote Sunday which could either remove longtime President Tayyip Erdogan or enable him to rule for another term.

The results will not only decide how the country is run but also show in which direction the country would go amid surging inflation and devalued currency.

Opinion polls noted Tayyip Erdogan’s opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu has a minor lead as the consensus candidate of an alliance of six parties. Two other surveys on Friday showed he enjoyed the support of more than 50% of Turkish people.

Supporters of the incumbent Turkish President, who runs for reelection, gesture and cheer as they gather for a rally in the Beyoglu district on the eve of the presidential and parliamentary elections, on the European side of Istanbul, on May 13, 2023. — AFP
Supporters of the incumbent Turkish President, who runs for reelection, gesture and cheer as they gather for a rally in the Beyoglu district on the eve of the presidential and parliamentary elections, on the European side of Istanbul, on May 13, 2023. — AFP

If both contenders fail to secure 50% above the vote, a run-off will be held on May 28.

The polling stations are to close at 5pm. According to Turkish law, electoral results cannot be posted until 9pm.

Erdogan, 69 and a veteran of a dozen election victories said he respects democracy and denies being a dictator.

Illustrating how the president still commands support, Mehmet Akif Kahraman, also voting in Istanbul, said Erdogan still represented the future even after two decades in power.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves to supporters prior to address a speech at a rally in the Beyoglu district on the eve of the presidential and parliamentary elections, on the European side of Istanbul, on May 13, 2023. — AFP
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves to supporters prior to address a speech at a rally in the Beyoglu district on the eve of the presidential and parliamentary elections, on the European side of Istanbul, on May 13, 2023. — AFP

"God willing, Turkey will be a world leader," he said.

The crucial elections have taken place just three months after the devastating earthquakes wreaked havoc across Turkey killing more than 50,000 people. People in the affected areas have expressed their anger over slow assistance from the government but there is little evidence that the issue has changed how people will vote.

During voting in Istanbul, Erdogan shook the hands of election officials and spoke to a TV reporter in the polling station.

He noted: "We pray to the Lord for a better future for our country, nation, and Turkish democracy.”

The opponent Kilicdaroglu, 74, voted in Ankara and emerged to applause from the waiting crowd.

Presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu gestures as he visits Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Turkeys founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, during an election campaign in Ankara, on May 13, 2023. — AFP
Presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu gestures as he visits Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, during an election campaign in Ankara, on May 13, 2023. — AFP

"I offer my most sincere love and respect to all my citizens who are going to the ballot box and voting. We all miss democracy so much," he told the journalists.

The elections are competitive between the People's Alliance comprising Erdogan's AK Party (AKP) and the nationalist MHP and others, and Kilicdaroglu's Nation Alliance formed of six opposition parties, including his Republican People's Party (CHP), established by Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The electoral process was under monitoring by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe which said it would deliver a preliminary statement on Monday on its findings.