Saturday, 10 June, 2023

Erdogan rival faces uphill struggle in Turkey runoff

Erdogan rival faces uphill struggle in Turkey runoff

ISTANBUL: Turkey's secular opposition leader may have succeeded in forcing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan into his first ever runoff, but his chances of winning on May 28 are remote, reports AFP.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu was predicted to perform well in Sunday's first round but ended up with just under 45 percent while Erdogan fell fractionally short of the 50-percent threshold required for an outright victory.

His six-party alliance now needs to accomplish seemingly impossible electoral gymnastics to unseat Erdogan, who needs just a sliver of extra support to extend his two decades in power to 2028.

"The second round will be easier for us," Erdogan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Tuesday. "There is a difference of five points, close to 2.5 million votes. It seems there is no possibility of this closing."

Mobilising more young voters could boost Kilicdaroglu's prospects, with polls suggesting he will win that group by a two-to-one margin.

More than five million first-time voters -- who grew up knowing no leader other than Erdogan -- were eligible to vote on Sunday and are deemed more likely to want change.

Kilicdaroglu, a 74-year-old former civil servant, tried to revive his campaign on Tuesday with a message targeted at young people.

"You can't afford anything. You even have to think about a cup of coffee. Your joy of life has stolen, whereas youth is carefree," he said on Twitter.

"They didn't give you that even for a day."

Kurds, a minority ethnic group representing around 10 percent of the electorate, may also come out stronger in favour of Kilicdaroglu.

The opposition leader, himself an Alevi Kurd who represents one of Turkey's most repressed communities, was endorsed by the pro-Kurdish HDP party in late April.

But Sunday's turnout in Kurdish-majority provinces was believed to hover around 80 percent -- well below the national average of almost 89 percent.

Greater Kurdish support may also be a double-edged sword that makes Kilicdaroglu's bid for power near impossible.

One of Erdogan's attack lines was linking the opposition to outlawed Kurdish militants that have waged a deadly insurgency against the Turkish state for decades -- an appeal to nationalist and conservative Turks that appeared to work.

"On balance, Kilicdaroglu's electoral alliance with pro-Kurdish HDP hurt him," said Washington Institute analyst Soner Cagaptay.