The Turks have voted. 61 million citizens of that country were called today to participate in the second round of the presidential elections. The polling stations have closed at 16.00 (Spanish peninsular time), starting the counting of the votes The current president, the Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdogan starts as a favorite in the polls over the center-left candidate of the opposition alliance Kemal Kiliçdaroglu. Most polls published this past week gave Erdogan a clear victory with between 51.4% and 54% of the vote, after the candidate who came third in the first round, Sinan Organ, gave him his backing. With 94% counted, the official Anadolu Agency puts the president in the lead with 52.4%, compared to 47.6% for the opposition Kiliçdaroglu. The independent media Anka gives Erdogan 51.4% of the ballots, to 48.6% for the opposition leader. The electoral commission has reported that about half of the votes are officially counted and the government candidate is leading with a difference of nine points.
This is the first time the country has faced a runoff in the presidential election. If the demoscopic predictions come true, Erdogan will opt for another five years in the position he has already held for 20 years. The president was on the verge of revalidating his mandate in the first round by obtaining 49.52% compared to 44.88% of the votes obtained by Kiliçdaroglu. Sinan Organ came in third with 5.17%. Although the polls give Erdogan the winner, in the first round they all failed to give the opposition candidate much more intention to vote than he finally obtained.
Election day has passed calmly, despite some isolated incidents and allegations of irregularities by the opposition. "The second round of voting is over. So far we have not received any negative information affecting the elections. Applications and complaints about irregularities will be studied," election commission chairman Ahmet Yener told local media. However, the chairwoman of the Social Democratic Party (CHP) in Istanbul, Canan Kaftancioglu, cast suspicion on the count: "I call on citizens to keep track of their ballots in each ballot box. Make sure that the votes that come out of the ballot box are the ones you placed in it," he said.
Despite the difficulty of overcoming the result, the opposition has not thrown in the towel. In the brief campaign for the second round, the opposition candidate left behind the positive narrative he had maintained so far and reinforced the nationalist and anti-immigrant discourse, filling the cities with posters promoting the expulsion of Syrian refugees blaming them for high prices and lack of jobs. The idea is to attract those who did not go to the polls on May 14 and voters of the third candidate in support, Sinan Ogan, who, however, opted to support Erdogan.
Democracy and freedom
The president, visibly tired, voted at noon in the Usküdar neighborhood on the Asian side of Istanbul. After casting his vote, Erdogan said that "no country in the world has participation rates of 90%, but Turkey has almost reached them. I ask my fellow citizens to come and vote tirelessly," reports France Presse. At practically the same time, the opposition candidate went to his polling station in Ankara. "I encourage citizens to vote so that true democracy and freedom can come to the country; to get rid of an authoritarian government," said Kemal Kiliçdaroglu after voting.
It is likely that the Turkish ultranationalist vote will be divided between the two candidates (there are parties of this tendency that support Erdogan and others that support Kiliçdaroglu), predictably around the secularism-Islamism axis. "I voted for Ogan in the first round, but I would never vote for Erdogan because I am a defender of Atatürk," a promoter of secularism, a voter explained to this newspaper.
Following the first round, the European Union urged Turkey to address the shortcomings in the electoral process identified by international observers. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe reproached Turkey for a bias towards Erdogan in media coverage of the campaign and some irregularities and democratic restrictions without considering them fraud. "The EU attaches the utmost importance to the need for transparent, inclusive and credible elections on a level playing field," High Representative for Foreign Policy Josep Borrell and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi said in a joint statement.
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