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Turkey: Erdogan 'accepts' possible runoff — as it happened

Published May 14, 2023last updated May 15, 2023

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his ruling alliance had won a "majority" in the presidential election, while admitting he was ready for a possible second round with rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Relive DW's live coverage.

A sea of Turkish and AKP flags
Turkey's pivotal parliamentary and presidential elections have been tightly contestedImage: Kivanc El/DW

These live updates are now closed. Please head to our article on the potential runoff for the latest news

The latest election results in Turkey

With 99.78% of votes counted Erdogan was sitting with 49.25% according to private news agency ANKA's preliminary figures, while opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu had 45.05%.

The majority of ballots from the 3.4 million eligible overseas voters still needed to be tallied, according to the Supreme Electoral Board.

Erdogan won around 60% of the overseas vote in the 2018 election.

Turkey's election headed to a runoff

Opposition leader Kilicdaroglu will accept runoff

The leader of Turkey's opposition alliance Kemal Kilicdaroglu said early on Monday that he would accept the electorate's decision for a second round vote.

Kilicdaroglu expressed confidence that he would win in a runoff against incumbent President Recep Tayipp Erdogan as he spoke alongside leaders of the six-party alliance.

"If our nation says second round, we will absolutely win in the second round," Kilicdaroglu told reporters. "The will for change in society is higher than 50%." 

Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu holds a press conference at CHP Headquarters
Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu is confident that he will win in a second round voteImage: Emin Sansar/AA/picture alliance

DW explains the conflicting reports by state-run and opposition-leaning media

Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the director of the German Marshall Fund's Ankara office, told DW that while Turkish media is largely seen as extension of Erdogan's government, the majority of Turkish citizens do not necessarily rely on media outlets controlled by the president and his allies.

Unluhisarcikli said citizens have access to opposition-leaning channels as well, saying "I would say that to a large extent, President Erdogan and his rival, Kilicdaroglu have an equal access to media."

In case of a victory for the opposition, Turkish society will remain highly polarized, Unluhisarcikli said.   

Erdogan says he could still win outright but would accept runoff

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his ruling alliance had won a "majority" in Sunday's presidential election.

Erdogan claimed a "clear lead" over his secular rival as votes were still being counted in the early hours of Monday morning.

"We don't know yet whether the election will be over in the first round, but if people take us to a second round, we will respect that too," Erdogan told his supporters in a rousing speech outside his AK Party's headquarters in Ankara.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the crowd from the balcony of AK Party's headquarters
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his supporters that if voters have chosen a runoff vote he will welcome itImage: Murat Cetinmuhurdar/AA/picture alliance

Opposition says Turkey is headed to a run-off vote

Mayor of Ankara Mansur Yavas, from Kemal Kilicdaroglu's party CHP, has said that a run-off vote on May 28 is now "highly likely" after Erdogan's share of the vote fell below 50% according to both the independent ANKA and the state-run Anadolu news agencies.

Yavas was speaking on Turkish television alongside CHP mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu.

Imamoglu said that there were still over 7 million votes to be counted adding that the result could still turn in Kilicdaroglu's favor by Monday morning.

Neither candidate expecting swift final result

President Erdogan warned against announcing the results of votes too quickly while Kilicdaroglu predicted that it would be a long night.

"While the election was held in such a positive and democratic atmosphere and the vote counting is still going on, trying to announce results hastily means usurping the national will," Erdogan wrote on Twitter in his first message since voting ended.

Kilicdaroglu also wrote on Twitter, saying "We will not sleep tonight" and emphasizing the importance of counting every ballot.

The opposition has accused Erdogan's party of calling for recounts in areas where Kilicdaroglu had more votes. These accusations could not be verified.

Erdogan extends narrow lead as vote counting continues

With 83.31% of ballots tallied, President Erdogan saw his slim lead grow to 48.55% against Kilicdaroglu's 45.69%, according to private new agency ANKA.

At this rate, a second round of voting would be necessary to declare a winner.

According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, with 80.48% of votes counted, Erdogan's lead was at 50.43% against Kilicdaroglu's 43.77%.

Erdogan's parliamentary alliance ahead in vote

Turkish citizens also voted for their parliamentary representatives on Sunday.

With 60.36% of the votes counted, President Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) had gained 37.91% of the votes, with Kilicdaroglu's Republican People's Party (CHP) on 28.89%.

The ruling People's alliance, which includes AKP and several other smaller parties, held just over 50% of the vote share, whereas the CHP's Nation alliance was on 40%.

Erdogan slightly ahead with half of votes counted

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a narrow lead of 47.64% over main rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu on 46.6% based on 52.75% of ballots being counted, according to private news agency ANKA.

Conflicting tallies put Erdogan, Kilicdaroglu ahead

A partial vote count has placed presidential contender Kilicdaroglu in the lead with 47.39% of the votes against President Erdogan's 46.84% with 32.67% of the ballots counted, according to private news agency ANKA.

The state-run Anadolu Agency, however, released different figures. 

They put Erdogan ahead with 52.43% against Kilicdaroglu's 41.68%, saying 45.70% of the votes had been counted.

The Kilicdaroglu's opposition party, CHP, accused Anadolu of manipulating the numbers to make it seem like Erdogan was set for victory.

"We are winning," Kilicdaroglu tweeted.

The tense race might come down to a razor-thin margin.

Polls close in tight Turkish vote

Turkish voting stations closed following in a knife-edge election that could end President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's two-decade rule and put the mostly Muslim nation on a more secular course.

Polling stations officially closed at 5 p.m. (1400 UTC) after nine hours of voting.

Reporting of results before 9 p.m. is not permitted, so the first indications of the outcome may not emerge until late evening.

However, election authorities may decide to allow local media to report on results earlier.

Opinion polls have given Erdogan's main challenger, Kemal  Kilicdaroglu, who heads a six-party alliance, a slight lead.

Two polls on Friday showed him above the 50% threshold needed to win outright.

If neither wins more than 50% of the vote, a runoff will be held on May 28.

What some of the voters are saying

The campaign ahead of Sunday's pivotal elections has been characteristically divisive. As voters cast their ballots, the split was apparent in Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, of which Erdogan was mayor from 1994 to 1998.

"I see these elections as a choice between democracy and dictatorship. I chose democracy and I hope that my country chooses democracy. I have hope that Kilicdaroglu will win," 64-year-old retired health sector worker Ahmet Kalkan told the Reuters news agency.

However, long-time Erdogan supporter Mehmet Akif Kahraman said he was still backing the incumbent. "There has never been a change in my thoughts because the future is here. God willing, Turkey will be a world leader," said Kahraman.

Mehmet Ali Fakioglu, who was made homeless by the earthquake that hit Turkey in February, made a 15-hour journey back to the disaster-hit Antakya region to vote on Sunday.

Fakioglu, who has been staying with his son in Istanbul, relayed his anger about the fact that help from the government was slow to arrive.

"I will only say this, everybody should vote with their conscience at the ballot box," Fakioglu told Reuters. "We were forgotten, all of us, on that day, the second day even on the third day. Not only in Antakya, but people were forgotten in all those cities."

"People all around Turkey should keep this in mind when voting," he added.

Mehmet Ali Fakioglu
Mehmet Ali Fakioglu traveled 15 hours by bus to cast his vote in earthquake-hit AntakyaImage: Emilie Madi/REUTERS

In the capital, Ankara, Ceren was one of more than five million young voters eligible to cast ballots. She said she wanted to see change. "I was born during this government. I saw to what point we arrived. I don't want them anymore — enough," the 19-year-old told the AFP news agency.

However, many older voters remain loyal to the president, including 67-year-old Ankara resident Recep Turktan. 

"What matters is not to divide Turkey," said Turktan, adding that the economic difficulties facing Turkey at present were beig felt around the world. "We will carry out our duty. I say, go on [with Erdogan]," Turktan said.

President Erdogan casts vote in Istanbul, expresses hopes

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cast his ballot at a primary school in Istanbul's Üsküdar district.

After voting, he expressed hope that the outcome would be "good for the future of the country," although he did not predict a win.

"My hope to God is that after the counting concludes this evening, the outcome is good for the future of our country, for Turkish democracy," he said. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power more than 20 years ago, and he hopes to extend his tenure as modern Turkey's longest-serving ruler.

He won in the first round of the presidential election in 2018 with 52.6% of the vote. Polls currently show support hovering around 44-45%.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets a person at a polling station
Erdogan has held power for more than two decades — first as prime minister, then as presidentImage: Umit Bektas-Pool/Getty Images

Opposition's Kilicdaroglu casts ballot, vows democracy's return

Turkish presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu has cast his vote at a primary school in the capital, Ankara. 

After voting, he pledged to restore democracy to Turkey after what many see as a slide toward authoritarianism. "We all missed democracy," the secular leader told reporters. "You will see, God willing, spring will come to this country."

The opposition contender is the chairman of the Republican People's Party (CHP), which was established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk — the founder of modern Turkey.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, presidential candidate of Turkey's main opposition alliance, casts his ballot at a polling station in Ankara
Kilicdaroglu united a rare coalition of secular Turks, Islamic conservatives and nationalistsImage: Yves Herman/REUTERS

Kilicdaroglu says he and his six-party alliance plan to "fulfill people's longing for democracy" and would "turn towards the West" in foreign policy matters if successful at the polls. 

Outsider Sinan Ogan casts his vote

Ranked as an outsider in the presidential election, candidate Sinan Ogan has voted at an Ankara polling station.

Ogan was a former lawmaker with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), an ally of Erdogan's AK Party, and has an academic and international finance development background. However, polling has shown him to be lagging far behind the two lead candidates.

The third contender, Sinan Ogan, casts his vote
The 55-year-old nationalist Ogan is a former academician and expert on Russia andthe Caucasus regionImage: DHA

Another contender, Muharrem Ince announced on Thursday that he was withdrawing from the presidential race. However, his name is still on the ballot paper, meaning people could still vote for him.

Voting begins in pivotal elections

Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. (0500 UTC) across Turkey for crucial parliamentary and presidential elections. 

Roughly 61 million people are eligible to vote, including nearly 5 million first-time voters. Turks abroad have already cast their ballots.

The vote is being seen as a major test to incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's 20-year rule.

Besides choosing the president, voters will also select 600 members of parliament from 87 electoral districts to represent them for the next five years.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has deployed hundreds of observers to monitor the vote.

Polling stations are scheduled to close at 5 p.m. local time.

Most Germans would like to see Erdogan voted out

A survey shows that two-thirds of people in Germany would be happy to see Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voted out of office after two decades in power.

The nationwide study by the research institute YouGov asked: "This coming Sunday, Turkey will hold its presidential election. Would you prefer President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to be re-elected or voted out?"

About 70% of respondents thought Erdogan should go, while 10% thought he should stay. Another 20% said they did not know or gave no answer.

Germany has some 1.5 million registered Turkish voters, the largest diaspora participating in the vote.  They have been voting since April 27, with polling stations having closed on Tuesday evening. While supporters of Erdogan and his AKP party have often stirred controversy in Germany, the Turkish leader does have a strong support base in the country.

Turkey set to vote in tight presidential race

Last chance for democracy, says Bundestag's foreign affairs chair

The German Bundestag's foreign affairs committee chairman, Michael Roth, said the elections were "probably the last chance" for the opposition to democratically remove Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) from power after two decades.

While the presidential and parliamentary elections would likely be free, Roth told the German media group RND, they would probably not be fair, with Erdogan and his supporters tightening their grip on the media, the electoral commission and the judiciary.

Meanwhile, Roth said, Russia appeared to be trying to discredit the Turkish opposition through disinformation campaigns.

He added that Erdogan appeared to have little more to offer than nationalist slogans. "The economic, social, and financial situation of the country is simply devastating," Roth said.

How the 'earthquake zone' views Turkey's elections

On February 6, powerful earthquakes rocked large portions of southern Turkey and northern Syria. More than 50,000 people lost their lives in Turkey alone, according to official figures.

About three months after the disaster, many people still don't have a place to stay, while basic services like water and electricity have not yet been restored everywhere. 

DW reported on two cities in the "earthquake zone" which have starkly different views on Sunday's election.

The southeastern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras, which was at the epicenter of February's earthquake, is considered an AKP stronghold. It is unlikely the incumbent will see support wane on May 14 because of the earthquake.

The situation appears to be different in Hatay, a city near the Syrian border. There, many people were critical of the government, saying some cities — not including Hatay — were given priority when it came to aid deliveries. 

Many in Hatay still lack clean water, clothing and hygiene articles.

Elections in Turkey: Is Erdogan losing power?

'People are more vulnerable to disinformation' Turkish fact-checker tells DW

Turkish fact-checker Gülin Cavus spoke to DW about the tension ahead of the 2023 polls and the level of disinformation doing the rounds.

"People are just really tense. And during these kinds of uncertain times, people sometimes have fears, sometimes excitement. It really affects how we consume information on social media," Cavus said.

"People are more vulnerable to disinformation in these times. This polarization deeply affects this Turkish election and the amount of misinformation," Cavus pointed out and said that deepfake videos were now among the types of disinformation circulating.

Cavus said that a mistrust of media meant that people were getting more news from social media platforms as opposed to conventional media houses.

"It's really important to understand the dynamics and atmosphere in Turkey's media ecosystem. People actually don't trust the media that much. They consume and get news from social media channels," Cavus said, while adding that "troll armies" are influencing attitudes.

"In this election, the leaders' troll armies actually did many things to change people's attitudes towards the parties, the leaders, and the campaigns. Everyone shares disinformation about other candidates."

Who are the candidates and what's at stake?

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is founder and leader of the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The 69-year-old served as the mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998 and then rose to the top positions in the country.

From 2003 to 2014, he served as prime minister, after which he became president after stepping down as party leader.

He promptly set about expanding the power of the presidency and in 2017, he used a referendum to enshrine a series of amendments that gave the office more control in the constitution.

Erdogan's critics say he has shifted Turkey away from its long standing secular traditions towards religious conservatism.

Turkey: Erdogan faces major test in upcoming vote

Six opposition parties have set aside their political differences to present a united front in their bid to topple Erdogan, who has been Turkey's longest serving leader.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu has prevailed as the six-party opposition alliance's choice candidate.

The 74-year old has been chairman of the secular Republican People's Party (CHP) since 2007.

Kilicdaroglu and the opposition alliance are promising to transform Turkey back into a "strong parliamentary system." They want to undo as many of Erdogan's constitutional changes, which increased his power, as possible.

Kilicdaroglu: 'We will bring democracy to Turkey'

Two other politicians were running for the presidency, although one pulled out of the race on Thursday in a shock move.

Muharrem Ince's withdrawal could ultimately bolster the chances of top opposition candidate Kilicdaroglu.

The final candidate is Sinan Ogan, who probably has the slimmest chance of winning the presidential race. He is supported by an alliance of small, ultranationalist parties.

Turkey is in the midst of an economic meltdown which has seen the Turkish Lira plummet to record lows while inflation has been rampant. The Erdogan government's response to deadly earthquakes in February has also drawn criticism, hurting his reelection prospects.

kb, rc, ab, rm /rt (Reuters, AFP, AP)