Turkey heads to an election runoff

Briefly: Turkey’s highly anticipated presidential election will likely go to a run-off on 28 May, with initial results from the first round yesterday (Sunday) showing no candidate with the 50% of votes necessary to win outright.

Some polls had hinted that incumbent strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan could lose, but he ended up with 49.2% of the vote, compared with 45% for opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (pronounced kilitch-dah-rolu).

Why’s everyone so focused on Turkey’s election?

  • ⚔️ It’s got NATO’s second largest military
  • 🧑‍🤝‍🧑 It’s home to more than 88 million people
  • 🌍 It straddles Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and
  • 🥾 This is the closest Erdoğan has come to losing power

And why’s Erdoğan faced such a tough election?

  • 📉 Erdoğan’s unorthodox policies have contributed to a currency collapse and soaring inflation, with many Turks now struggling, and
  • ✊ Erdoğan’s critics say the populist leader has weakened Turkey’s institutions and steered the country away from its secular roots

So… any change in Ankara could be felt around the world. The thing is, we don’t really know how. The opposition contains nationalist, leftist and conservative parties, so its vision for Turkey’s role in the world isn’t always entirely clear.

Intrigue’s take: Erdoğan has long been a tough and wily negotiator on the international stage (just ask Sweden, whose NATO membership he’s vetoed). So, several world leaders will have hoped to see the back of him at this election.

But the opposition now has a tough slog to close that gap before 28 May. So betting markets are wagering Erdoğan’s time on the world stage isn’t over yet.

Also worth noting:

  • Voter turnout came in at around 88% yesterday. That compares to 84% in the last Swedish election, and around 67% in the UK and the US.
  • To go deeper on what’s at stake in this election, we highly recommend this episode of One Decision with Julia Macfarlane, featuring Sir Richard Dearlove (former MI6 chief), David Satterfield (former US Ambassador to Turkey) and Gonul Tol (Turkish academic and author).
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