ANKARA, Turkey It’s been one of the most contested presidential elections in recent times, but at Arjantin lkokulu elementary school in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, the mood was calm, orderly and calm.
There was no jostling as voters lined up to decide whether the country’s longtime leader Recep Tayyip Erdoan extends his rule to a third decade or is overthrown by challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who has promised to restore a more democratic society. Continuity or change?
I hope it will be good for Turkey, said geologist Salami Toprak, 67, shortly after voting. Let’s see what will come out. He added that he was thinking of the next generation while voting.
Closely watched from Washington and Kiev to Moscow and Beijing, the run-off of the Turkish Republics Centenary Year comes after none of the candidates was able to secure more than 50% of the vote in the first round of May 14, Erdoan fell short by a tiny amount.
Kilicdaroglu, 74, described the second round as a referendum on the country’s future. The leader of the center-left secular Republican People’s Party, or CHP, since 2010 is a starkly different figure from Erdoan, who is known for his bombastic speeches. With a soft voice, he has the reputation of being a builder of bridges.
In addition to returning the country to parliamentary democracy, Kilicdaroglu and the alliance pledged to establish the independence of the judiciary and central bank, institute checks and balances, and reverse democratic backsliding and repression. freedom of expression and dissent.
But Erdoan is favorite to win, after his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) retained a majority in parliament in elections earlier this month.
Initially, however, he trailed in opinion polls during a campaign dominated by the fallout from the devastating earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people earlier this year and the country’s economic turmoil.
Erdoan raised salaries and pensions ahead of the first round of elections and subsidized electricity costs and gas bills in a bid to woo voters who faced a steep cost-of-living and housing crisis. currency precipitated by numerous rate cuts by the government in an attempt to boost exports.
Immigration was also high on the agenda and both candidates sought to bolster their nationalist credentials ahead of the second round.
Before the first vote, Kilicdaroglu said he intended to repatriate the refugees within two years by creating favorable conditions for their return. But he has since hardened his stance and pledged to send all refugees home once elected president.
Erdoan, meanwhile, courted and secured the support of nationalist politician Sinan Ogan, the former academic who was backed for the presidency by an anti-migrant party but was eliminated after finishing third in the first round of voting. During the election campaign, Ogan said he would consider forcibly returning migrants if necessary.
While the economy and migration were big issues, Erdoan managed to secure the election and convinced his base that national security was at stake, said Dimitar Bechev, lecturer on Turkey at the University of Turkey. Oxford in the UK, author of Turkey under Erdoan. He added that identity politics revolving around ethnicity and religion determined much of the vote allocation.
The results will also have multiple ramifications outside of Turkey, which enjoys a strategic location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Turkey has the second-largest armed force in NATO after the United States, controls the crucial Bosphorus strait and is widely believed to harbor US nuclear missiles on its soil.
Despite being a member of NATO, the country maintained close ties with Russia and blocked Sweden’s membership in the Western military alliance.
A victory for Erdoan would likely deepen the country’s relations with Moscow, according to Nilgun Arisan Eralp, director of the Center for European Studies at Turkey’s Economic Policy Research Institute in Ankara.
Given the difficult economic situation the economy finds itself in, Russian money will be needed to keep the regime going, Eralp said, adding that it was likely he would continue to reject Sweden’s membership in the regime. NATO, damaging relations with the United States and bringing the country closer to the Kremlin.
Ankara has long accused Sweden of harboring activists from the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is a designated terror group in Turkey, Sweden and the United States.
In Istanbul, Emre Trkolu, 36, said he awaited the results with enthusiasm.
It’s important to be here today, said the travel agent. But I think there was no need for a second round because we all know President Erdoan is going to win anyway. The past two weeks have been an uncertain time. I don’t like uncertainty in politics
Matt Bradley and Paul Goldman reported from Ankara. Leila Sackur reported from London.
Elden of Neyran contributed.
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