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Thursday July 25, 2024

Erdogan takes early lead in crucial Turkish elections

By AFP
May 15, 2023

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took an early lead on Sunday in a landmark election that could extend his two-decade grip on power or put the mostly Muslim nation on a more secular course.

The Anadolu state news agency showed the 69-year-old picking up more than 52 percent of the vote and his secular rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu trailing with 41 percent. But Anadolu´s figures were based on a count of less than 50 percent of the ballots and Kilicdaroglu claimed that his party´s own vote count showed him winning.

“We are leading,” Kilicdaroglu tweeted after Anadolu´s results started coming out.Most of the early votes appeared to be coming from heavily pro-government districts and Erdogan´s lead was shrinking as the number of counted ballots grew. “We are seeing a positive picture, according to our data,” opposition Republican People´s Party (CHP) spokesman Faik Oztrak told reporters.

“We will start to give the numbers when the number of opened ballot boxes reaches a meaningful level.”Most pre-election polls showed Kilicdaroglu, 74, enjoying a slight advantage and close to breaking the 50-percent threshold needed to avoid a May 28 runoff. Turnout was expected to be huge in what has effectively become a referendum on Turkey´s longest-serving leader and his Islamic-rooted party.

Erdogan has steered the nation of 85 million through one of its most transformative and divisive eras in the post-Ottoman state´s 100-year history. Turkey has grown into a military and geopolitical heavyweight that plays roles in conflicts from Syria to Ukraine. The NATO member´s footprint in both Europe and the Middle East makes the election´s outcome as critical for Washington and Brussels as it is for Damascus and Moscow.

Erdogan is lionised across swathes of conservative Turkey that witnessed a development boom during his rule.

More religious voters are also grateful for his decision to lift secular-era restrictions on headscarves and introduce more Islamic schools. “My hope to God is that after the counting concludes this evening, the outcome is good for the future of our country, for Turkish democracy,” Erdogan said after casting his ballot in Istanbul.

Erdogan’s first decade of economic revival and warming relations with Europe was followed by a second one filled with social and political turmoil.