Turkey faces election runoff, Erdoğan seen with momentum

With almost all of the election boxes opened, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the opposition's presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu will likely have a runoff in two weeks.

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Recep Tayyip Erdoğan led comfortably on May 15 after the first round of Turkey's presidential election, with his rival facing an uphill struggle to prevent the president extending his rule into a third decade in a runoff vote on May 28.

Turkish assets weakened on the news, which showed Erdoğan just below the 50% threshold needed to avoid sending the NATO-member country to a second round of a presidential election viewed as passing judgment on his autocratic rule.

Erdoğan's People's Alliance, comprising his Islamist-rooted AKP and its nationalist partners, also appeared set to win a majority in the new parliament with 321 of the 600 seats, further boosting his chances in the presidential runoff.

"The winner has undoubtedly been our country," Erdoğan said in a speech to cheering supporters at the AKP headquarters in the capital Ankara overnight.

With 99% of ballot boxes counted in the presidential vote, Erdoğan led with 49.4 and his main opposition rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had 44.96%, High Election Board (YSK) chairman Ahmet Yener told reporters. Turnout was a very high 88.8%.

Further boosting Erdoğan's hopes, nationalist candidate Sinan Oğan, who placed third in Sunday's election, told Reuters in an interview on May 15 he would only endorse Kılıçdaroğlu in the runoff if the latter ruled out any concessions to the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). 

That party backs Kılıçdaroğlu but is accused of ties to Kurdish militants, which it denies.

The 2.8 million voters who backed Oğan in the first round will be crucial for Kılıçdaroğlu if he is to defeat Erdoğan.

Opinion polls had shown Erdoğan trailing Kılıçdaroğlu, but the outcome suggested that the president and his AKP were able to rally conservative voters despite a cost-of-living crisis and soaring inflation.

Kılıçdaroğlu, head of a six-party alliance, vowed to prevail in the runoff and accused Erdoğan's party of interfering with the counting and reporting of results. He called on his supporters to be patient, but they were downcast on May 15.