Turkey is facing a second round of presidential elections as none of the candidates passed the 50% threshold.
ISTANBUL, May 15 (Reuters) – Turkey appears to be on the verge of a second round of presidential elections after neither Tayyip Erdogan nor his challenger Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu passed the 50% threshold required for victory.
Opinion polls leading up to the election indicated a very tight race, but gave Kılıçdaroğlu a slight advantage.
According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, with almost 91% of the vote counted, Erdogan was leading with 49.86% of the vote, while Kılıçdaroğlu was leading with 44.38%.
The election of the next president is one of the most important political decisions in the country’s 100-year history and will reverberate far beyond Turkey’s borders.
The defeat of Erdogan, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most important allies, may upset the Kremlin but calm the US administration as well as many European and Middle Eastern leaders who had a difficult relationship with Erdogan.
Erdogan, who ruled for two decades, turned a NATO member and Europe’s second largest country into a global player, modernizing it with megaprojects such as new bridges, hospitals and airports, and building a military industry that other nations aspired to.
But his shifting low-interest-rate economic policies, which fueled the mounting cost-of-living crisis and inflation, made him a victim of voter wrath. His government’s slow response to the devastating earthquake in southeastern Turkey, which killed more than 50,000 people, added to voter anxiety.
Kılıçdaroğlu promised to steer Turkey on a new course by restoring democracy after years of state repression, returning to traditional economic policies, strengthening institutions that lost their autonomy under Erdoğan’s firm grip, and rebuilding fragile ties with the West.
Thousands of political prisoners and activists could be released if the opposition wins.
Critics fear that if he wins, Erdogan will rule even more authoritarian. The 69-year-old president says he respects democracy and denies being a dictator.
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