(Photo Credit Turkish Presidency)
The third-placed contender in the Turkish presidential elections, ultra-nationalist Sinan Ogan, has formally endorsed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the upcoming second-round runoff vote, Ekurd Daily reported on 22 May.
Ogan, the presidential candidate for the ATA Alliance, has emerged as a potential kingmaker after neither Erdogan nor his main challenger, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, secured the 50 percent vote tally needed for a first-round victory on May 14. The runoff vote is set for next week, 28 May.
Erdogan received 49.5 percent of the first-round vote, while Kilicdaroglu received 44.9 percent. Ogan received 5.17 percent, giving his supporters a chance to swing the election in Erdogan’s favor as the top two candidates face off.
“I declare that we will support Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the candidate of the People’s Alliance, in the second round of the elections,” Ogan said, referring to the Erdogan-led alliance that includes nationalist and Islamist parties.
“We believe that our decision will be the right decision for our country and nation,” Ogan stated.
Erdogan’s ruling AK party and its nationalist and Islamist allies also held on to their majority in the 600-seat Turkish parliament following the elections, which Ogan cited as a reason for his decision.
“It is important that the newly elected president is under the same (leadership) as the parliament,” Ogan said.
Ogan’s endorsement came after he held a surprise meeting with Ergodan in Istanbul on 19 May. No statement was made following their brief meeting.
Despite Ogan’s endorsement, some supporters of his ATA Alliance may still vote for Kilicdaroglu, who further hardened his stance against the presence of millions of Syrian refugees in the country following the first round vote.
Exaggerating the number of Syrians who fled the war to find refuge in Turkiye, Kilicdaroglu said of Erdogan, “You knowingly brought more than 10 million refugees to this country. I am announcing it here – as soon as I come to power, I will send all refugees home. Period.”
Erdogan was a strong supporter of the US-led war on Syria that began in 2011. Western governments, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkiye all supported extremist Salafist militias to topple the Syrian government.
Many foreign fighters openly passed through Turkiye to join Al-Qaeda linked groups such as the Nusra Front and ISIS in Syria. Millions of Syrian refugees passed in the other direction to escape the violence.
Umit Ozdag, the leader of the anti-immigrant Victory Party that joined the ATA Alliance, refused to join Ogan in endorsing Erdogan.
“Mr. Sinan Ogan’s statement is his own political choice. This statement does not represent (the views of) the Victory Party and does not bind the party,” Ozdag tweeted.
While vowing to deport Syrian refugees, Kilicdaroglu also ruled out any peace negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) if he were elected, further appealing to ultra-nationalist voters represented by the Victory Party and ATA Alliance.
The PKK, which is considered a terrorist group by Turkiye, has fought an insurgency against the Turkish government since the 1980’s for greater Kurdish autonomy and rights.
Kilicdaroglu’s hard line against the PKK came despite pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) support for Kilicdaroglu in the first round. Far-right Turks accuse the HDP of having links with the PKK and, therefore, of supporting terrorism. Hundreds of HDP supporters and members were arrested ahead of the May presidential and parliamentary vote.