The leader of the opposition coalition and the presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu has appealed to his supporters to not leave the ballot boxes until the last vote is counted in Turkey’s high-stakes election. Kilicdaroglu, who is challenging President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 20-year rule, has a slight lead in the polls according to some surveys, but the race is expected to be tight and could go to a second round.
Demokrasi kahramanlarımıza seslenmek istiyorum. İmzalı son sandık tutanağı teslim edilene kadar, ne olursa olsun asla sandıkların başından ayrılmayın. Millet iradesinin tam ve doğru biçimde tecelli etmesi sizin kararlılığınıza bağlı. Göreceksiniz, yorgunluğunuza değecek. 🏼
— Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (@kilicdarogluk) May 14, 2023
Kilicdaroglu cast his vote at a polling station in Ankara on Sunday, accompanied by his wife and other family members. He told reporters that he was confident of winning the election and ending Erdogan’s authoritarianism and mismanagement of the economy. He also thanked the other parties in his six-party coalition, the Nation Alliance, for their support and cooperation.
He urged his supporters to remain vigilant and monitor the vote-counting process until the end, amid fears of possible fraud or irregularities. He said that his coalition had deployed thousands of observers and lawyers across the country to ensure a fair and transparent election. He also called on the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) to act impartially and respect the will of the people.
The election is seen as a referendum on Erdogan’s rule, which has been marred by a series of crises, including a devastating earthquake in February that killed more than 50,000 people and displaced more than 6 million. Erdogan has faced criticism for his handling of the disaster, as well as for his crackdown on dissent, media freedom and human rights. He has also alienated many of Turkey’s Western allies with his foreign policy moves, such as buying Russian missile systems and intervening in regional conflicts.
Erdogan, who also voted in Istanbul on Sunday, has dismissed the opposition as weak and divided and claimed that he is the only leader who can ensure Turkey’s stability and prosperity. He has promised to raise public sector salaries, launch new infrastructure projects, and improve relations with Europe and the US if re-elected. He has also accused Kilicdaroglu of being a puppet of foreign powers and terrorist groups.
The election is being held under a new executive presidential system that was approved by a controversial referendum in 2017. The system grants sweeping powers to the president, who can appoint ministers, issue decrees and dissolve parliament. The system also abolishes the post of prime minister and reduces the role of parliament.
More than 58 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots in Turkey’s 81 provinces, as well as abroad. The polls closed at 5 p.m. local time (1400 GMT) and preliminary results are expected later on Sunday night.