Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed a “clear lead” over his rival as votes are being counted in the election. However, he is ready for a runoff election if needed. Preliminary figures show Erdogan leading with 49.49% of the vote, followed by opposition figure Kemal Kilicdaroglu at 44.79%. The counting process is still ongoing and no official decision has been made regarding a potential second round. The likelihood of a run-off election has significantly increased as many remaining votes come from opposition strongholds. Erdogan’s party has requested recounts for numerous ballot boxes.
Opposition leaders accused the government of intentionally slowing down the vote count in districts where Kilicdaroglu enjoyed strong support. However, both the official state media count and the opposition’s count leave open the possibility of another presidential vote on May 28. The election has become a referendum on Turkey’s long-serving leader and his party, with a turnout expected to reach 90%.
Kilicdaroglu’s emergence, along with his six-party opposition alliance, presents a clear alternative to foreign allies and Turkish voters. A potential runoff in two weeks could provide Erdogan an opportunity to regroup and reshape the debate. Nonetheless, he would still face challenges from Turkey’s severe economic crisis and criticism of his government’s response to the February earthquake.
In a run-up to the elections, Kilicdaroglu has emphasized the desire for democracy and expressed hope for a brighter future for the country. Pre-election polls indicated that Kilicdaroglu was likely to win the youth vote by a significant margin. Some voters expressed discontent over Erdogan’s focus on military development rather than addressing economic issues affecting their daily lives.