Run-off vote in Turkey: who will become president?

After neither candidate won an absolute majority in the first round of the Turkish presidential elections, a run-off vote will be held on 28 May. In the first round incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (49.5 percent) beat opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (44.9 percent). The ultra-nationalist Sinan Oğan garnered 5.2 percent of the vote and has now pledged to support Erdoğan in the second round. Europe's press sees the chances of a change of government disappearing.

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Yetkin Report (TR) /

Change economic policy now!

In Yetkin Report, economist Selva Demiralp fears serious consequences if Erdoğan continues with his current economic policy:

“Our president has made it very clear that the low interest rate policy will continue. I think this course poses very serious risks to the economy. ... Economically, very critical days lie ahead. I hope that our country will deviate from this course as soon as possible. ... Otherwise, an economic journey awaits us that will be very difficult to reverse - and the real costs of which we will only feel later.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Exporting anti-Western polemics

It is also thanks to his anti-Western discourse that Erdoğan was able to secure the votes of such a high proportion of Turks living outside Turkey, notes Turkish-born journalist Aylin Bilic in her column in NRC:

“As soon as I turn on a Turkish TV channel it's all about supposed Islamophobia in the West and how Turks here can't freely attend their mosques. ... The secular (liberal) values through which different groups can live side by side are portrayed by Erdoğan as 'Western' and invented by 'Islamophobic' people. The anti-Western attitude of many Dutch Turks is reinforced by these daily sermons by Erdoğan. ... They parrot his claim that in Western Europe, as a Muslim, you're oppressed.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Remain open to dialogue

There will have to be negotiations with the future president about Turkey's position between the East and West, former EU ambassador to Turkey Marc Pierini comments in Le Monde:

“European leaders are well aware that Turkey has evolved, and that a substantial part of its population is not well disposed towards either Europe or the US. ... They also know that Russia's grip on Ankara will remain strong, and that the country will continue to face problematic situations in the south, east and north. In the current political context, however, the EU will not deny its democratic principles and values. It is within this framework that it will remain open to a genuine dialogue with Turkey's future president.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

A hopeless panic reaction

Now that Oğan has endorsed Erdoğan the outcome of the second roung is almost certain, says Jutarnji list:

“Erdoğan received 2.5 million votes more than his opponent in the first round, which means that Kılıçdaroğlu would need all of Oğan's voters on Sunday to have a chance of defeating the 'modern sultan'. The extent of Kılıçdaroğlu's panic at the increasing likelihood of defeat is evidenced by the radically harsher rhetoric he has adopted towards migrants, an attempt to woo right-wing voters who have had enough of Erdoğan. The 'Turkish Gandhi', known for his calmness and composure, is now trying to use illegal migrants to scare the people.”

Habertürk (TR) /

Opposition destroying its own potential

Commenting in Habertürk, columnist Nihal Bengisu Karaca criticises that Kılıçdaroğlu is increasingly adopting nationalist tones to win votes:

“I am a writer who has attached great importance to and supported both Kılıçdaroğlu's policy of reconciliation and the principles and tenets agreed upon by the six parties in terms of ensuring a climate of social peace, legal security and transparent / accountable governance. This path had laid a foundation; it was the architecture of a meaningful climate of peace; but I fear that the strategy we have been witnessing in the last few days will not win the elections and instead has the potential to dismantle all that has been built so far.”

Le Quotidien (LU) /

Cat-like agility

Erdoğan is like a cat that always lands on its feet, Le Quotidien observes:

“Erdoğan is entering the second round of the election on 28 May with a fairly clear conscience. And with unshakable confidence in his ability to rebound. He's as lithe as a cat. ... Until the horror and tremors stopped, until the dried eyes looked away again, until the engine of everyday life started purring again. The political animal was in a very bad position. But it has lost none of its ability to extricate itself from dangerous situations.”

Evrensel (TR) /

Turks abroad have no class consciousness

A majority (65 percent) of Turkish citizens in Germany voted for Erdoğan. For Evrensel this is proof that

“the conservative, nationalist and fascist parties in Turkey have benefited most from the fact that it is not a class struggle but the sense of disadvantage that plays a decisive role here. ... Only a lack of 'class consciousness' can explain the fact that a considerable proportion of immigrants of Turkish origin are worried about the mood spread by the far-right, anti-immigration, anti-refugee, nationalist and fascist parties in Germany, but vote for parties in Turkey with the same ideological and political orientation.”

Trud (BG) /

Too pro-West for Turkish voters

The Turkish opposition overestimated itself, says Trud:

“It clung to the West so much that this ultimately didn't go down well with Turkish voters. It also failed to make clever use of the disaster in the İskenderun region. The earthquake could have been used by the opposition as a catalyst for change. But Erdoğan beat them to it. His reaction was flawless, proactive and extremely swift. This led to a clear victory for the president in the earthquake-hit region.”

Habertürk (TR) /

Not yet ready for change

Erdoğan will remain at the helm, Habertürk is convinced:

“Although it was warned umpteen times, the CHP fell into the government's trap and sent the candidate the AKP wanted into the race. This is the result. ... It seems that the voters who hesitated because of his Alevi identity did not cast their ballots for him. ... What won was the defence industry, free natural gas, the idea that 'if anyone can do it, Erdoğan can', the economy based on the contractors and the construction sector, and the message of a joint front against foreign interference. ... The pandemic, the economy and the earthquake were tangential. Turkey is not ready for change and is not yet done with Erdoğan. The arithmetic in parliament already shows that.”

Artı Gerçek (TR) /

Turn the vote into a referendum on Erdoğan

Kılıçdaroğlu needs to change his campaign tactics, argues economist Eser Karakaş on Artı Gerçek:

“The AKP has been in power for 21 years and its last ten years have been full of failures. The law is being trodden underfoot, the economy is completely bankrupt, not to mention the major and momentous changes in foreign policy and women's rights. ... In view of all this Kılıçdaroğlu should not compete with Erdoğan by focusing on government programmes and proposals but hold a referendum on Erdoğan's performance.”

Interia (PL) /

Sobering for Poland's opposition

Interia tempers the expectations of those hoping for a change of government in the Polish parliamentary elections this autumn:

“Poland is not Turkey. And yet: when despite the poll numbers President Erdoğan won the first round of the elections, many of the opponents of the PiS government cringed. The opinion polls failed yet again. The economic crisis proved unable to undermine popular support for Erdoğan. The Turkish government's objective ineptitude, even if only during the recent earthquake, did nothing to change things. ... Wishful thinking clouded sober judgement. ... Moreover, one is reminded of how high the hopes were for the Hungarian elections in 2022.”

Kommersant (RU) /

Grain agreement as campaign ammunition

Kommersant sees a concrete measure with which Moscow could help Erdoğan:

“He will try to use every newsworthy event to his advantage - for instance the grain agreement, in which Turkey plays a key role. It expires on 18 May, just ten days before the second round of the election. If Moscow accommodates Ankara and extends the agreement by at least two months, Erdoğan can announce another foreign policy success that also promises to bring Turkey considerable financial benefits. At a time when the country's economy is facing serious problems, such good news is also good for the Turkish president.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Voters want stability

The fact that Erdoğan's alliance was able to defend its majority in the parliamentary elections will make things difficult for the opposition in the presidential race, De Volkskrant believes:

“Many citizens value political stability. That would be at risk if the president does not come from the camp of the parliamentary majority, a situation referred to as 'cohabition' in France. This concern could give the president additional momentum in the run-up to 28 May. Over the next two weeks, the need for stability will undoubtedly be stressed by Erdoğan's popular alliance. And the same scenario of cohabitation may put the opposition Nation Alliance in a difficult position if Kiliçdaroglu is elected president in the second round after all.”

The Guardian (GB) /

A tall order for Kılıçdaroğlu

The Guardian also sees the challenger facing an uphill battle:

“Mr Kılıçdaroğlu's race is not yet run. But a combination of incumbency advantage, and the momentum provided by the AKP's win in parliament, means that Mr Erdoğan is now likely to extend his increasingly autocratic rule into a third decade. ... Mr Kılıçdaroğlu's deflated alliance has two weeks to shift the dial in a presidential race that has confounded its expectations. In the context of a hostile media overwhelmingly biased in favour of Mr Erdoğan, that will be a very tall order.”

Revista 22 (RO) /

Erdoğan can count on the diaspora

Revista 22 comments:

“The results show that in Anatolia, in northern Turkey, as well as in the diaspora, the traditional Erdoğan strongholds remain intact. In France, almost 70 percent of Turks voted for him - almost seven percent more than in 2018. In Germany a clear majority of the community - consisting mainly of Anatolians living far from Turkey's massive inflation - voted for Erdoğan. ... Their sensitivities are mainly identity-based, and they are seduced by Erdoğan's prestige foreign policy. Only the Turkish community in Sweden punished Erdoğan with its vote, but in doing so it risks further radicalising Turkey's position on Sweden's Nato accession.”

T24 (TR) /

Nationalism on the rise

T24 comments:

“Erdoğan, in particular recently, has used language focusing on nationalism rather than on 'religion' and equating the opposition with 'terror and terrorists' while referring to his alliance and voters as 'patriots'. ... The second largest party in the Nation Alliance is the İYİ 'urban nationalists'. ... And the [ultra-nationalist] Ata Alliance under Sinan Oğan achieved 5.3 percent in the presidential election. ... In all three alliances, nationalism either formed the main ideological vein or played a key role. This nationalist wave was overlooked by a large segment of people, especially the polling companies.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Will the autocrat be placated?

Erdoğan's re-election could also serve to make him moderate his authoritarian style somewhat, Le Figaro speculates:

“The election also shows that Turkey's strongman is never so weak as when he is afraid of his people and tries to muzzle them. Would a third term for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan exacerbate his autocratic rule? Europeans and Nato allies must be prepared for this, but they would not complain about a president in Ankara who is somewhat placated by his new legitimacy.”

Polityka (PL) /

A lab for testing how to deal with populists

Polityka eagerly awaits the second round:

“Turkey's future will depend not only on the outcome of the run-off vote on 28 May. With a victory against the authoritarian, nationalist Recep Erdoğan, who promotes autocracy and despises the freedoms of liberal democracy, the opposition would send a strong signal to the world that such politicians can be defeated. And that this can be achieved even when the playing field is not level and there can be no question of it having been a fair election campaign from the outset. At the same time, Turkey would then become a huge social and political laboratory for state repair after populist rule. Today, we still rely on theoretical models in this regard.”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

A vote on relations with the EU

Turkey's relationship with the EU is the key issue for voters, Naftemporiki comments:

“Perhaps no one has summed up the dilemma of the elections as well as the current Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ: 'People will either celebrate with champagne or swear an oath to God on the prayer mat.' ... To say that relations between Brussels and Turkey have cooled would be an understatement. They are at the freezing point. There has not been a single serious attempt in Brussels to revive the accession negotiations for years. From the Commission's point of view this is pointless as long as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is at the head of the Turkish power apparatus.”

De Tijd (BE) /

Who can save the economy?

What counts most for citizens is the economy, De Tijd notes:

“Beyond all the strategic and geopolitical issues, in the end the economic situation remains the top priority for Turks. Skyrocketing inflation has wiped out the economic success of Erdoğan's first years. How to get the economy get back on track is not clear, no candidate has a proper recipe for that. For Turkey, however, it will make a difference. The story of the key elections in 2023 is not over yet. And the final outcome will also be of key importance for Europe.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Women and first-time voters decisive

There is still a lot at stake in this election, Večernji list stresses:

“Analysts are convinced that the votes of women were decisive in opposing Turkey's withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, which protects women from violence. ... Women are the most influential group in these elections - along with six million young first-time voters whose votes could also be decisive. The whole world is eagerly watching these elections and their outcome, which will directly influence the geopolitical power structure and balance in the context of the military conflict between the Eastern and Western blocs playing out on Ukraine's territory.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Democratic duty fulfilled

Milliyet praises the high turnout and peaceful voting process:

“Citizens queued up with their ballots in hand to determine both the president and the deputies who will be represented in Turkey's Grand National Assembly, fulfilling their civic duty to the tune of 87.6 percent. In Izmir yesterday, we saw large crowds queuing up from the early hours of the morning. We saw that disabled and elderly people in particular were making an effort to vote, that many of them were excited, some making their way to the schools in wheelchairs and some on crutches. ... It also made us all happy that there were no major negative incidents.”