Turkey holds its breath on the eve of the second round of the presidential election

Turkey is preparing for an unprecedented second round on Sunday to elect its president after a bitter campaign, filled with promises and anathemas thrown by both sides against the Kurds and Syrian refugees.

For this new face-to-face, Recep Tayyip Erdogan leaves after the first round with a lead of five points (49.5%) and 2.5 million votes over his rival, the social democrat Kemal Kilçdaroglu (45%) , at the head of a disparate alliance of six parties ranging from the national right to the left.

The latest polls – which were wrong before the first round – also give a similar lead of five points to the head of state.

Despite this arithmetic a priori favorable to the president in power for 20 years, an unknown remains: the 8.3 million votes which were not expressed during the first round, despite a participation of 87%.

Already, the diaspora who were able to vote until Tuesday evening moved more with 1.9 million ballots against 1.69 million.

In addition to the abstainers, the two camps have courted the ultranationalists since May 14, including the third man in the first round, Sinan Ogan, who had won 5% of the votes cast and finally joined Erdogan. But the weight of these extremes played on the tone of the campaign.

Obviously flabbergasted by a defeat he had not anticipated, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, 74, disappeared from the screens the day after May 14 to reappear on the fourth day, reinvented as a martial candidate.

Finished the smiles, the hearts with the fingers which punctuated its meetings, place with the mine and the closed fist to announce the expulsion of the Syrian refugees “as of the following day of the victory”.

A threat repeated a few days later, when he promised that Turkey would not become “a depot for migrants”. Since then, the candidate has softened his remarks towards the Syrians and called on Europe to pay its due: “We are struggling with these problems to provide Europe’s comfort, we are going to remedy them, you will see” he told young people.

Turkey, with at least 3.4 million Syrian refugees (according to official data) and hundreds of thousands of Afghans, Iranians and Iraqis is the first host country in the world.

Opposite, 69-year-old Tayyip Erdogan, stimulated by the result of the first round, chained meetings – up to three a day last weekend – denouncing at length the “terrorists” of the opposing camp, guilty of supporting granted to him by the pro-Kurdish HDP party and the “LGBT” who attack the fundamental values ​​of the family.


“Yesterday again, they loved the terrorists”, launched the president again on Thursday against the opposition.

“I have been following the electoral campaigns for decades, I have never seen so many ‘fake news’, such insulting, homophobic remarks”, observes Can Dündar, former editor of the centre-left daily Cumhuriyetin exile in Berlin, who regrets that the opposition has not “provided an appropriate response or called for a minimum of respect”.

Menderes Cinar, professor of political science at Baskent University in Ankara, is even saddened by an “opposition unable to present its vision of the future for Turkey, relying only on the failures of the government and the president “.

“But even if voters don’t agree with some coalition parties, they can’t afford the luxury of not voting,” he said.

What the pro-Kurdish HPD has integrated well. Despite repeated attacks and above all despite Kiliçdaroglu’s alliance with a tiny ultra-reactionary and xenophobic formation, the party renewed its call on Thursday to vote for Kiliçdaroglu.

On Twitter on Friday, one of the figures of the HDP Selahattin Demirtas, imprisoned since 2016, reiterated his call from his cell: “There is no third round in this case! Let’s make Mr Kiliçdaroglu president, let Turkey breathe. Go to the polls, vote! »

In a press release, the organization Reporters without Borders (RSF) denounced the imbalance of the means devolved to the opposition to be heard when the head of state monopolizes television screens.

“The truth is that the media system put in place constitutes a massive rigging of the elections by depriving Turkish citizens of democratic deliberation,” said RSF representative in Turkey, Erol Onderoglu.

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