*Updated at 13:00 (CET)
Turkey’s Sunday presidential election headed for a runoff, Turkish Supreme Electoral Council announced on Monday.
Neither incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan nor his rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu secured the necessary 50 per cent majority to avoid a run-off on 28 May. However, Erdoğan, seeking to extend his 21-year rule, holds a significant lead with him at 49.40 per cent over his rival at 44.96 per cent as of 09:45 local time on Monday.
In the parliamentary election, Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) received 35.49 per cent of the vote, with more than 99 per cent of the votes counted. This is AKP’s worst score since its first election in 2002 when it received 34.28 per cent of the vote. The party now has fewer seats in parliament, but its alliance with three other parties means Erdoğan can control a majority in parliament, as well hold the advantage in the second round.
The country’s left-wing Labour and Freedom Alliance led by the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party received over 10 per cent of the votes in the parliamentary elections.
Meanwhile, the deep polarisation in Turkey is reflected in the election results, with a third nationalist candidate, Sinan Oğan, holding over five per cent of the vote, and potentially serving as kingmaker in the run-off depending on which candidate he endorses.
The closely contested election results have led to rising tensions through the night due to conflicting reports during vote counting. The opposition accused Anadolu Agency of manipulating the timing of the results in elections to favour the AKP, and delaying the release of voting figures for areas where opposition is strong.
Another point of contention the opposition raised was AKP’s ballot officers forcing repeated recounts in ballots with clear opposition lead in them. Kılıçdaroğlu told reporters in a statement at 01:00 local time that there were ballots that were recounted up to 11 times.
The election is widely seen as a verdict on Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian leadership and will have far-reaching implications, not only for who leads Turkey but also for its relationship with key global powers and its direction as a nation. With Turkey facing a severe cost-of-living crisis, the next president will also need to tackle pressing economic challenges.