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Tuesday April 16, 2024

Turkey runoff polls: Third place candidate backs Erdogan damaging opposition's chances

Sinan Ogan, a little-known hardline nationalist candidate, endorses President Erdogan, intensifying the challenges for the opposition

By Web Desk
May 23, 2023
Leader of the ATA Alliance Sinan Ogan delivers a press conference in Ankara on May 22, 2023. Ultra-nationalist candidate Sinan Ogan who finished third in Turkey´s election threw his support on May 22, 2023, behind President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of this weekend´s historic runoff vote. —AFP
Leader of the ATA Alliance Sinan Ogan delivers a press conference in Ankara on May 22, 2023. Ultra-nationalist candidate Sinan Ogan who finished third in Turkey´s election threw his support on May 22, 2023, behind President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of this weekend´s historic runoff vote. —AFP

Sinan Ogan, a little-known hardline nationalist candidate who secured 5.2% of the vote in the initial presidential election, has announced his support for President Tayyip Erdogan in the upcoming runoff. This unexpected endorsement provides a significant boost to Erdogan's campaign and presents new challenges for opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

Ogan's emergence as a potential "kingmaker" has captured the attention of analysts and the public. During a press conference, he emphasized the role his campaign played in elevating Turkish nationalists and criticized Kilicdaroglu's Nation Alliance for failing to convince him about the future. Ogan's backing is based on the principle of continuous struggle against terrorism.

In the initial vote, Erdogan received 49.5% support compared to Kilicdaroglu's 44.9%, with Erdogan's ruling party coalition securing a parliamentary majority. This positions Erdogan favourably as he aims to extend his two-decade rule in one of Turkey's most critical elections.

Ogan, a former academic and the first-round presidential candidate representing a right-wing alliance is recognized for his anti-immigrant stance in a country hosting the largest number of refugees. He aims to remove two predominantly Kurdish parties from the political equation and strengthen Turkish nationalists and secularists.

Kilicdaroglu, the candidate from the Republican People's Party, has pledged to reverse many of Erdogan's policies, including addressing the cost-of-living crisis resulting from an unorthodox economic program.

Erdogan welcomed Ogan's endorsement, highlighting their shared views on fighting terrorism and relations with Turkic states. Regarding Ogan's anti-immigrant stance, Erdogan mentioned plans to resettle one million refugees in Syria.

Ogan's support is expected to bolster Erdogan's campaign but may also divide his own supporters. The Victory Party will announce its position on the runoff separately. Ogan's stronger-than-expected performance surprised pollsters, indicating a surge in nationalist support.

As the runoff approaches, Kilicdaroglu has intensified his rhetoric, vowing to repatriate all migrants if elected. A member of Erdogan's alliance, the Justice Party, has broken away and endorsed Kilicdaroglu.

Some disillusioned voters express reluctance to participate in the runoff, citing concerns about the candidates' alignment with terrorist organizations.

Ogan's political career includes entering parliament in 2011, an unsuccessful bid for party leadership in 2015, and subsequent expulsion.