Turkey heads for runoff in presidential elections

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Turkey is set to hold a second round of voting on May 28 to decide who will be the next president of the country, after neither of the two main candidates secured a majority in the first round on Sunday.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been in power for 20 years, faced a strong challenge from Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of a six-party opposition alliance. Erdogan received 49.4% of the votes, while Kilicdaroglu got 44.9%, according to state-owned news agency.

The election was seen as a referendum on Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule, as well as his handling of the economic crisis, the coronavirus pandemic, and foreign policy issues. Erdogan has faced criticism for cracking down on dissent, undermining the rule of law, and eroding the secular foundations of the Turkish Republic.

Kilicdaroglu, on the other hand, promised to restore democracy, human rights, and social justice, and to improve relations with Turkey’s Western allies and neighbors. He also pledged to release thousands of political prisoners and activists who have been jailed under Erdogan’s regime.

Both candidates claimed victory on Sunday night and accused each other of manipulating the vote count. Kilicdaroglu urged his supporters to be patient and vigilant until the official results are announced. Erdogan said he was confident of winning the runoff and thanked his voters for their support.

The runoff will be a tight race, as both candidates will need to win over the supporters of the third-placed candidate, Meral Aksener, who got 5.6% of the votes. Aksener, a former interior minister and a nationalist politician, has not yet endorsed Erdogan or Kilicdaroglu.

However, Kilicdaroglu may also benefit from a higher turnout and a united opposition front. He may appeal to some of Erdogan’s disillusioned voters who are unhappy with the state of the economy and the pandemic response.

The outcome of the runoff will have significant implications for Turkey’s future direction, as well as its relations with regional and global powers. The election has been closely watched by Russia, the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, where Turkey has played an active and sometimes controversial role.

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