Turkey's Erdogan appears headed to runoff in presidential election

A ballot during the Turkish presidential elections.
A ballot during the Turkish presidential elections. Hakan Akgun / dia images via Getty Images
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Turkey's presidential election appeared headed to a runoff on Sunday, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan not obtaining enough of the vote to win the contest outright.

With over 90 percent of the votes counted, Erdogan has 49.6 percent of the vote, while his main challenger, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, has 44.5 percent, according to Turkey's state-run news outlet Andalou Agency. Because neither candidate garnered the required 50 percent of the vote, the election will likely be decided during a runoff on May 28.

Erodgan, who served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014 and president since then, is described by The Economist as ruling Turkey in an "increasingly autocratic style," and is often seen as one of the world's most notable strongmen. However, polls showed many Turks were becoming increasingly disillusioned with their decades-long ruler, and this election could represent Erdogan's greatest threat to power yet.

The turning point for public opinion seemed to be the devastating earthquakes in Turkey this past February that killed thousands of people. Erdogan's government was blamed for a lackluster response and recovery effort that may have led to additional deaths, and other issues such as a 50 percent inflation rate and crackdowns on press freedoms have continued to turn people against the president.

If Kılıçdaroğlu is able to oust Erodgan, Turkey's change in power could cause a domino effect across the globe. While Turkey is a member of NATO, the country has seen increased tensions with Europe during Erdogan's tenure, and the president is also a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The New York Times noted it is an open secret that most European leaders "would be delighted" if Erdogan lost.

Erdogan has pledged a peaceful transition of power if he loses, saying he "will consider any outcome at the ballot box as legitimate" and do "whatever democracy requires."

May 14, 2023: This article has been updated with additional election results. 

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