The presidential elections in Turkey, held Sunday, will head to a runoff set for May 28 as the leading candidates failed to secure the more than 50 percent of the votes needed to win.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received 49.51 percent of the votes and his main opposition rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu 44.88 percent, the country’s High Election Board chairman Ahmet Yener told reporters. Turnout was a very high 88.8 percent, Reuters reported.
A third candidate, nationalist Sinan Ogan received five percent of the votes, making his tally crucial for both candidates in the runoff.
The 69-year-old Kilicdaroglu, a member of Republican People’s Party (CHP) ran as the opposition’s main candidate, with the left-leaning People’s Democratic Party (HDP) among the six parties supporting his candidacy.
In the parliamentary elections, which were held simultaneously on Sunday, Erdogan’s People’s Alliance, which included his Justice and Development Party (AKP) and other nationalist forces, appeared to win a majority in Turkey’s new parliament with results suggesting that the president’s bloc had won 321 of the 600 seats.
“The winner has undoubtedly been our country,” Erdogan said in a speech at the AKP headquarters in the capital Ankara overnight, Reuters reported.
Kilicdaroglu welcomed the prospect of a runoff vote and said his party would triumph, CNN reported.
“If our nation says second round, we gladly accept it. We will absolutely win this election in the second round. Everyone will see that,” he said.
Sunday’s election in Turkey was being watched closely in the West and in Russia. Over the years Erdogan has been creating obstacles for the West, including the United States. The Turkish president, however, has become a close ally of President Vladimir Putin of Russia and has purchased Russian defense systems whose technology is incompatible with systems of NATO, of which Turkey is a member.
White House spokesperson John Kirby said President Joe Biden was looking forward to working with whoever won the vote. The Kremlin said it expected Russia’s cooperation with Turkey to continue and deepen regardless of whoever wins, Reuters reported.