Throughout polling day, we will, below, bring you regular updates (latest at the top of the page) on this momentous crossroads in Turkey’s modern history, with the country’s leader of two decades Recep Tayyip Erdogan looking in danger of losing his grip on the presidency to Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the candidate backed by the six-party Nation Alliance broad coalition and endorsed by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
The parliamentary election runs in parallel with the presidential vote. In that contest, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), which holds a majority in the legislature in a ruling coalition with the far right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), faces an uphill battle to hold on to control.
Polls will open at 0800 Turkey time (0500 GMT) and close at 1700 Turkey time (1400 GMT). By some time on Sunday evening there could be a good indication of whether there will be a runoff vote for the presidency. A runoff will be necessary if neither Erdogan or Kilicdaroglu receives more than 50% of the vote.
0235 (May 15) Turkey time, 2335 (May 14) GMT
Let’s end this live coverage at this very late hour with bne’s initial report of the conclusion of Turkey’s election day for its Pro subscribers. Thank you for joining us.
TURKISH ELECTIONS: Kilicdaroglu complains officials ‘blocking will of people’ as Erdogan claims possible outright win
Clearly angry and frustrated, Kemal Kilicdaroglu very late on May 14 protested to officials "You are blocking the will of the people" as his camp let it be known they believed the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was using tactics of obstruction to thwart Kilicdaroglu’s bid to defeat Recep Tayyip Erdogan and win the presidency.
As Turkey’s May 14 election day drew to a close, it seemed there would be no announcement of official results or a winner as it was clear there were still millions of votes to be counted. However, paying no heed to Kilicdaroglu’s objections or reports of uncounted ballots, Erdogan at a very late hour addressed his supporters from a balcony of the AKP headquarters in Ankara, saying “We believe we can get above 50% in this round,” indicating he believed that an outright win might still be possible rather than a run-off in two weeks’ time.
Kilicdaroglu, the joint presidential candidate of the six-party opposition bloc, said Erdogan’s camp kept objecting to results from certain ballot boxes where the challenger was expected to perform well.
“There are ballot boxes that have been objected to six times, 11 times,” he said, adding: “You cannot prevent what will happen through objections. We will not allow a fait accompli.”
Kilicdaroglu also urged Erdogan to stop “perception management” and requested the national election board, the YSK, to act responsibly.
Giving more details on the alleged blocking tactics of Erdogan’s AKP, Kilicdaroglu said the party had put in objections to 783 ballot boxes in Istanbul and hundreds more in the capital Ankara. Prior to the poll, there was a general expectation that Kilicdaroglu would do well in the cities.
"The country doesn’t have any more patience for instability. You cannot manage the situation by manipulation, don’t be afraid of the will of the people," added Kilicdaroglu.
With various numbers in circulation as to how many ballot boxes had been processed, and how many votes each candidate had secured so far, the only thing that was clear was that no candidate was above the 50% threshold that would mean a knockout win, rather than the second-r0und head to head vote between the top two candidates on May 28.
The Turkish lira fell against the euro as investor sentiment turned sour on indications that Erdogan’s era of unorthodox economics might not be over.Also coming in slowly were the parliamentary results.
2332 Turkey time, 2032 GMT
Kilicdaroglu has urged opposition officials to continue to monitor ballot boxes across the country.
Interestingly, he has also called on the Supreme Election Board (YSK) to publish results from the big cities: "We won't sleep tonight. I am warning the Supreme Election Council, you have to provide the data from the cities."
The vote for Kilicdaroglu is expected to be very strong in big cities including Istanbul and Izmir.
"We've all missed democracy very much," said Kilicdaroglu at one of his final press conferences before polling day.
Kilicdaroglu has also hit out at what his party, CHP, see as an attempt by officials to manage perceptions of how the voting has unfolded by releasing data on Erdogan strongholds first.
“The fiction, which started with 60% [for Erdogan], has now dropped below 50%,” Kilicdaroglu said.
2254 Turkey time, 1954 GMT
Our Turkey correspondent has some latest results as given by Kilicdaroglu’s CHP.
On results uploaded into the Supreme Election Board’s (YSK’s) results system, it says: 103,200 ballot boxes uploaded into the system (54% of the total of 190,376 boxes), with results putting Kilicdaroglu on 49.10% of the vote, Erdogan on 44.95% and Ogan on 5.55%. Its results update was provided to this Turkish TV broadcast.
And… get this. Our correspondent says a tactic of AKP is to file recount appeals in voting precincts where Kilicdaroglu has taken a very high vote. That means the votes in those ballot boxes cannot be fed into the YSK system.
For instance, Kilicdaroglu appears to have received around 72% of the vote in Diyarbakir, a heavily Kurdish city in southeastern Turkey. But Diyarbakir’s results data has not been uploaded into the YSK system. Hundreds of polling officers have formed long queues in front of the YSK office in Diyarbakir, and the queue is getting longer and longer (see picture taken from local social media posting below).
2218 Turkey time, 1918 GMT
Reuters is now reporting sources in both Erdogan’s ruling AKP party and his opposition rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s CHP as saying that based on results so far, neither candidate is likely to clear the 50% threshold required for an outright win.
State news agency Anadolu (coming under fierce criticism from the CHP, see below) has Erdogan on 50.76% and Kilicdaroglu on 43.43%, with 75% of votes counted. The private Anka agency has Erdogan ahead by a much narrower margin.
A situation in which third candidate, nationalist Sinan Ogan, is scoring around 5% of the vote (compared to a lot of predictions that he would be lucky to make 1%) makes a second round head to head between Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu, scheduled for May 28, more probable.
2210 Turkey time, 1910 GMT
Well, BIG APOLOGIES. Since the last entry on this page at 1923 Turkey time, 1613 GMT below, bne has suffered a lengthy outage.
Now we’re back, where do things stand with the election results?
A big row has broken out because Turkey’s main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP)—the party led by Kilicdaroglu, the main challenger to Erdogan, advised Turks and observers not to pay attention to the early election results put out by the state-run news service Anadolu Agency, accusing it of "carrying out an operation that’s not to be trusted".
The CHP results service is here. The party said it would begin to share its figures once the proportion of the votes counted was much higher than the proportions Anadolu has been using.
Ankara’s CHP mayor, Mansur Yavaş, meanwhile, stepped forward to say that based on data from party workers monitoring the count, Kilicdaroglu was ahead.
CHP officials have accused the ruling AKP party of attempting to frontload results from its electoral strongholds in results provision to Anadolu to misleadingly show their man ahead. Omer Celik, an AKP spokesperson, accused opposition leaders of “an attempt to assassinate the national will” by claiming Anadolu is distorting the results.
1923 Turkey time, 1613 GMT
CORRECTION! Re item below, bne's Turkey correspondent says "Usually, when Anadolu starts giving out the results Erdogan's total is at around 70%, this is a bit strange."
Latest from Anadolu: just under 23% of votes counted, Erdogan on 54.6%, Kilicdaroglu 39.4%, Ogan 5.5%.
1913 Turkey time, 1613 GMT
Turkey’s supreme election board has just lifted its ban on the reporting of election results until 2100 Turkey time (1800 GMT) and the country’s state-run Anadolu Agency news service is reporting that with just under 10% of votes counted, Erdogan holds an early lead with 59.5% compared to Kilicdaroglu’s 34.8% and third candidate Sinan Ogan’s 5%.
Analysts say, however, that Kilicdaroglu is likely to trail in early results but should see his percentage move up as more results come in from some of Turkey’s biggest cities, where he is said to have a lot of support.
1901 Turkey time, 1601 GMT
Who noticed Erdogan and Vladimir Putin pull the wool over the world media’s eyes by declaring during a Moscow-Ankara video-link ceremony that they were inaugurating Turkey’s first nuclear power station?
This should really have been reported as a case of "Not so fast! You are doing no such thing."
Construction of the plant in Akkuyu, under Russia’s Rosatom, is badly behind schedule. All Erdogan and Putin were doing in reality was recognising the first delivery of nuclear fuel to the plant… or rather to the construction site. But their gambit worked, and Erdogan got the election kudos he was after (go here, but scroll down).
In the weeks since, the international media have been referring to how Turkey’s first nuclear plant was inaugurated, or even "launched". No mention that even the first reactor of it won’t start up until next year at the earliest. Ladies and gentlemen of the press! Slack!
1843 Turkey time, 1543 GMT
In case you missed it, Erdogan late on Friday addressed claims from Kilicdaroglu that members of his administration might prove unwilling to transfer power peacefully if the results produce a win for the opposition.
The governing party and its allies “will consider any outcome at the ballot box as legitimate” and will do “whatever democracy requires,” Erdogan said in a TV interview.
Kilicdaroglu, meanwhile, on the last day of his campaigning was going around wearing a bulletproof vest.
As expected, it’s been a fraught campaign.
On May 11, ‘spoiler candidate’ Muharrem Ince, whose votes were expected to prove useful to Erdogan in chipping away at Kilicdaroglu and pushing the presidential contest to a second round, pulled out of the race complaining that he had been targeted on social media with deepfake sex videos that had "manipulated the electorate".
Kilicdaroglu then said he had evidence that Russia was attempting to manipulate the elections against him with deepfake videos, prompting Erdogan to warn his rival: "If you attack Putin, I will not be OK with that."
The Kremlin denied having anything to do with deepfake videos circulating in Turkey.
1733 Turkey time, 1433 GMT
What the voters are saying: here's a good selection of views published today by Reuters, while earlier this week bne IntelliNews spoke to five urban professionals for their perspectives on the election candidates.
1725 Turkey time, 1425 GMT
It’s past 1700 in Turkey, meaning the polls are closed. Any reporting of results is not allowed under Turkish law until 2100.
By the way… it appears that it is not just the fate of one strongman, Erdogan, that is up in the air this weekend, but the fates of three. This weekend has also brought reports questioning what exactly is going on with the dictators at the helm in Belarus and Turkmenistan.
See: Is Lukashenko dead?
1650 Turkey time, 1350 GMT
Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu have cast their votes.
(Photo credit: Screenshot of Reuters video).
1621 Turkey time, 1321 GMT
At 1350 local time (1050 GMT), Mehmet Rustu Tiryaki, spokesman of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) election supervision committee, held a press meeting to report on voting incidents experienced in eastern provinces. See details here.
“Videos on social media were recorded in Minare village of Harran district in Sanliurfa province. First, our ballot box committee members were beaten and then these images emerged. Our authorised lawyer friends were directed to the relevant village and an objection was filed with the district election board. In the meantime, the Sanliurfa governor and police chief cannot be reached. Their excellencies are at a meeting,” Oguz Kaan Salici (@oguzksalici) wrote in a tweet at 1357 local time.
In the video, a person is seen stamping many ballots for Erdogan.
“Boiling water was poured on ballot box official Fettullah Isikkakdogan (see above), who opposed the block voting in Kardesler district of Urfa's Akcakale town, and then he was beaten. Despite all these attacks, we will continue to protect the ballot boxes with our heart and soul. We will not step back from our struggle for democracy!” Salici wrote in a tweet at 1528 local time.
In every election, particularly in the eastern provinces, such events as seen in released videos are seen as ordinary.
For more irregularities and violent incidents in the eastern region, see here.
“These incidents happen during every election we know… Measures are being taken. Hopefully this [taking of measures] continues. Everyone has to be carefully alert today,” Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu told reporters.
1530 Turkey time, 1230 GMT
For reports of electoral irregularities, suspected fraudulent voting and so forth, check out the Sendika.org live blog.
1517 Turkey time, 1217 GMT
Kilicdaroglu did not hold a rally on Saturday. Instead he paid his respects at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, in Ankara. Crowds of supporters, each carrying a single carnation to lay on the tomb, accompanied him.
His final rally came the night before in Ankara.
1508 Turkey time, 1208 GMT
“For 20 years Erdogan’s political genius for manipulating idiots has sustained him in power but the aggregation of voter dissatisfactions has generated a faecal tide too high for him to stem. The succession of last-minute vote-buying lollipops offered to the electorate will sway too few voters for him to overcome accumulated resentments. Expect ballot box manipulation and vote-counting shenanigans on behalf of the AKP, all part of the autocrat’s playbook, but these were not enough to change the result of the Istanbul mayoral elections in their favour in 2019."
1459 Turkey time, 1159 GMT
One person who has described Erdogan as an “autocrat” is Joe Biden.
In August 2020, a video surfaced of then Democratic presidential candidate Biden telling the New York Times in an interview that Erdogan was an “autocrat”, while advocating support for the opposition.
“What I think we should be doing,” said Biden, “is taking a very different approach to him [Erdogan] now, making it clear that we support opposition leadership.”
“He has to pay a price,” Biden added, saying that Washington should embolden Turkish opposition leaders “to be able to take on and defeat Erdogan. Not by a coup, not by a coup, but by the electoral process.”
Yesterday [Saturday May 13], Erdogan, perhaps mindful of the sheer pressure he is under to find last-minute votes, brought up Biden’s comments at his final campaign rallies, in Istanbul.
"Biden gave the order to topple Erdogan, I know this. All my people know this," said Erdogan. "If that is the case, then the ballots tomorrow will give a response to Biden too," he added.
1452 Turkey time, 1152 GMT
Up to 5mn young citizens have the chance to become first-time voters in these elections. That’s widely thought to be a big problem for Erdogan, who is far less popular than Kilicdaroglu with the young generations.
1451 Turkey time, 1151 GMT
In the past several years, bne IntelliNews Turkey correspondent Akin Nazli has constantly been one step ahead of the press pack in warning of crisis upon crisis in the country and the sheer unbelievable scale of its ills. Check out his TURKISH ELECTIONS EXPLAINER: Apocalypse soon? article.
Whoever wins the elections has one heck of a mess to sort out.
1450 Turkey time, 1150 GMT
In the mid-1990s, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then the mayor of Istanbul, was said to have remarked: “Democracy is like a train. You ride it until you arrive at your destination, then you step off.”
Some critics believe Erdogan stepped off that train several years ago and that, should he against the odds pull off a victory in these elections, the chances of Turkey ever again boarding the democracy train could be lost for ever.