The third place contender in the Turkish presidential elections last Monday formally endorsed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the second-round runoff vote to be held on May 28.
Nationalist presidential candidate Sinan Ogan, 55, emerged as a potential kingmaker after Erdogan or his main challenger, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, secured the majority needed for a first. that round victory on May 14.
Ogan, a former academic backed by a far-right anti-migrant party, won 5.17% of the May 14 vote and may hold the key to victory in the runoff now that he is out of the race.
His endorsement of Erdogan came days after he held a surprise meeting with the Turkish leader in Istanbul on Friday. No statement was made after the hour-long meeting.
Ogan attracted votes from people who disagreed with Erdogan’s policies but did not want to support Kilicdaroglu, who leads Turkey’s center-left, pro-secular main opposition party.
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Analysts say that despite Ogan’s endorsement, it is not certain that all of his supporters will go to Erdogan. Some will likely switch to Kilicdaroglu while others may choose not to vote in the runoff race. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that the anti-migrant party backing Ogan has yet to announce which of the two contenders they will endorse.
Erdogan received 49.5% of the votes in the first round – just short of the majority needed for an outright victory – compared to Kilicdaroglu’s 44.9%.
Erdogan’s ruling AK party and its nationalist and Islamist allies also retain a majority in the 600-seat parliament. That increases Erdogan’s chances of re-election because voters are likely to vote for him to avoid a broken government, analysts say.
Ogan listed the conditions to get his endorsement while talking to Turkish media last week. Among them is taking a firm stance against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and a timeline for deporting millions of refugees, including nearly 3.7 million Syrians.
Erdogan, on the other hand, told CNN International in an interview that he will not bow to such demands.
“I’m not a person who likes to negotiate that way. These are the people who are the king makers,” he said.
In an apparent attempt to woo nationalist voters, Kilicdaroglu hardened his tone last week, vowing to send back refugees and reject any peace negotiations with the PKK if elected.