Turkey is awaiting the results of its presidential election, which could determine whether President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will secure a sixth term in office or be unseated by his main rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. The election, which was held on Sunday along with parliamentary polls, is seen as among the most consequential in Turkey’s modern history.
Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey for 20 years, is facing the biggest political challenge of his career. He is facing economic headwinds, criticism over his handling of a devastating earthquake in February, and accusations of authoritarianism and human rights violations. He has also faced international pressure over his foreign policy, especially his involvement in the conflicts in Syria and Libya.
Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the pro-secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), is the joint candidate of a united opposition alliance that includes nationalists, liberals, and Kurds. He has promised to fix Turkey’s faltering economy, restore democratic institutions and freedoms, and improve relations with the West and regional neighbors. He has also pledged to end Turkey’s military interventions abroad and seek a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue.
According to opinion polls ahead of the vote, Kilicdaroglu had a slight lead over Erdogan, who failed to secure more than 50% of the vote in the first round of the 2018 presidential election. However, the polls also indicated that the race was too close to call and that a possible run-off on May 28 could be decisive.
More than 58 million voters were eligible to cast their ballots on Sunday, with more than 1.8 million living abroad having voted earlier. The voting started at 8 am (0500 GMT) and ended at 5 pm (1400 GMT). Media organizations are barred from reporting partial results until an embargo is lifted at 9 pm (1800 GMT).
The election was held under tight security amid fears of violence and fraud. More than 500,000 police officers and soldiers were deployed across the country to ensure order and safety. The opposition also mobilized thousands of volunteers and lawyers to monitor the voting and counting process.
The election was also marked by controversy over social media censorship. On Saturday, Twitter blocked access to several accounts that posted critical or satirical content about Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Twitter said it had received “a valid legal demand” from the Turkish government to take action against these accounts. The opposition denounced the move as an attempt to silence dissent and influence public opinion.