ISTANBUL BLOG: Kilicdaroglu failed to dethrone Erdogan because for him 50% needed to equal 60%

ISTANBUL BLOG: Kilicdaroglu failed to dethrone Erdogan because for him 50% needed to equal 60%
Given the election day realities in Turkey, to beat Erdogan, Kilicdaroglu would need not just a great performance, but a phenomenal performance. / WION, screenshot
By Akin Nazli in Belgrade May 15, 2023

Barring any last-minute surprises in the count, Turkey’s presidential election now goes to a second round on May 28—and that’s what Turkey’s leader of two decades, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, set out to achieve amid a chorus of critics asserting that challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu stood every chance of a knockout in May 14’s first round vote.

There are those who ask how it is that Erdogan, accused of a multitude of sins (let’s quickly jot down a few of the more well-known ones: economic mismanagement that destroyed 95% of the value of the Turkish lira in 15 years and put Turkey near the top of the world league of inflation, the dismantling of democracy, interfering with the judiciary and jailing voices of dissent and not cracking down on corruption that led to shoddy construction and the deaths of tens of thousands as earthquakes “pancaked” swathes of southern Turkey in February), has survived this latest attempt at ending his reign. Well, Turkey’s polling stations and ballot boxes are funny places, funny things. Not all is at it should be.

Far be it from this publication to point fingers, but there are those who say that for Kilicdaroglu to have scored higher than 50%, and claim an outright victory, he would actually have to have attracted a vote share in the 60%s. There are some shadowy types who hang around those polling places, freelance and otherwise. There is a thievery margin.

Miscreant at work. In the video, a person is filmed stamping multiple ballots for Erdogan.

This kind of thing in today’s Turkey is no secret, everybody knows it. It was certain that it would happen again. The opposition parties that backed Kilicdaroglu as the unity candidate either had to make damn sure that his campaign generated enough enthusiasm to take him into the 60%s (the dishonourable characters at work in the polling stations would then have failed to drag him below 50%) or they had to ensure that each and every ballot box was tightly guarded.

Turkey is nowhere near clearing the bar for securing acceptable elections (go here for Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reports on the sheer level of difficuties),  but in the last local elections, held in March 2019, the opposition defied the odds by guarding each and every ballot box in Istanbul. The effort bore fruit. Erdogan’s man was crushed. This time around, the six parties who banded together to oppose Erdogan claimed to have a “small army” of workers assigned to guarding the ballot boxes, but Turkey is a big country, plenty could have gone wrong. There were 201,808 ballot boxes set up for the voting, 192,214 at home and 9,594 abroad. Some 60,697,843 citizens were eligible to vote.

However, there were more than a dozen opposition parties willing to send workers to help protect the security of the vote and there were millions of people ready to serve.

Notably, the election results service of Kilicdaroglu’s Republican People’s Party (CHP) has failed once again. Someone should count how many elections in a row the system has not been up to the task.

Turks are enthusiastic voters. Election turnouts are massive. Paradoxically that makes protecting the security of the vote a very tall order. Currently, it is said that turnout was around 89%. That means around 52mn Turks cast a vote. The Supreme Election Board’s (YSK’s) website is down.

If a second-round vote is held, 47,523 more Turks will have the right to vote as they will have celebrated their 18th birthday within the next two weeks.

At 10am local time on May 15, Ahmet Yener, head of the YSK, said 192,187 ballot boxes of the 192,214 used in Turkey had been opened. There were just 27 left unopened. Meanwhile, 8,065 of the 9,594 ballot boxes set up abroad had been opened.

As of 9:45am on May 15, Erdogan’s vote share was officially 49.4%, Kilicdaroglu’s 44.96%, Sinan Ogan’s 5.2% and Muharrem Ince’s 0.2% (Ince pulled out of the race but it was too late to remove his name from the ballot paper and he perhaps attracted some sympathy votes).

So taking into account the 10% factor, as outlined above, the suggestion is that around 40% of voters, around 30mn people, still feel they benefit more from the Erdogan regime than they would from any alternative on offer.

Meanwhile, the voters who backed small party candidates Ogan and Ince, around 5.4% of voters or around 4-5mn people of the 85mn-strong official population, do not think that getting rid of the Erdogan regime is the first priority.

Ogan currently acts like he inherited his 5.2% from his father and that he can sell it in some horse trading in exchange for a couple of ministries. What his voters will do in the second round vote is unknown.

In the parliamentary elections, the picture is similar. Erdogan’s People Alliance were on a 49.34% vote share with 99.8% of the ballot boxes opened. They are set for 322 seats in the 600-seat parliament, with 267 seats going to Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), 51 to its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and four seats to Yeniden Refah Partisi (YRP).

The opposition Nation Alliance had a 35.39% vote share and 212 seats. Of those 168 will go to the CHP and 44 to the Iyi Party.

The Labour and Freedom Alliance were looking at 10.35% of the vote and 66 seats, with 62 for the Green Left Party (the new outfit of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP)) and four for the Labour Party of Turkey (TIP).

There is thus no chance that the opposition can initiate a vote to secure a 2/3 majority for returning to a parliamentary republic and ending the executive presidency that currently more or less translates into one-man rule for Erdogan.

As of May 15, the USD/TRY, in the interbank market, was trading in the 19.60s while free market prices at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul remained in the 21s-22s.

Turkey’s five-year credit default swaps (CDS) surpassed the 600-level, while the yield on the Turkish government’s 10-year eurobonds move past the 9%-level.