Turkey faces unprecedented election runoff after Erdogan looks unlikely to win outright

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attend a rally ahead of the May 14 presidential and parliamentary elections, in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 12, 2023.

Dilara Senkaya | Reuters

Turkey’s presidential election could be headed for an unprecedented runoff, as neither 20-year incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan nor challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu had secured an outright win Monday morning.

With a battered economy, tensions over its relationship with Russia and NATO, and fears over a slide toward authoritarianism, the election in the sharply divided country of 85 million people could hardly come at a more pivotal time.

A candidate must get more than 50% of the vote to win the highly-charged race. If no one passes that threshold, the vote goes to a runoff election in the coming weeks.

With more than 99% of votes counted as of 8 p.m. ET Sunday, Erdogan is ahead with 49.46% of the vote while Kilicdaroglu, who has pledged to bring change and economic reform,, has 44.79%, according to Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK).

Erdogan and his conservative, Islamic-rooted Justice and Development party (AKP) are confident. “We strongly believe that we will continue to serve our nation for the next 5 years,” he told throngs of supporters late Sunday night.

Whereas Kilicdaroglu, who is representing a united front of six different opposition parties all seeking to unseat Erdogan, vowed to win the election in a second round of voting.

This is a developing story and will be updated shortly.

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