Addressing a sea of supporters waving red Turkish flags at the headquarters of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara, the capital, Erdogan said, “We certainly believe that we will win the election in the first round.”
Kilicdaroglu, 74, accused the ruling party of interfering with the vote count through repeated objections but also prepared for the possibility of a runoff. “If our nation says the second round, we welcome it,” he said in a televised speech.
Erdogan, 69, who first gained national prominence as the mayor of Istanbul, the country’s most-populous city, is modern Turkey’s most successful politician. A deeply polarizing figure who has ruled for some two decades, he has been accused by critics of diluting democracy by using repressive tactics against civil society and the media, while concentrating power as president. Supporters say that he has modernized the country through massive infrastructure projects and brought Islam back into public life in Turkey.
The devastating earthquakes in southern Turkey in February that killed more than 50,000 people have cast a shadow over the election. Erdogan’s government was accused of lax enforcement of building codes and a slow disaster response, worsening the effects of the quakes.
Kilicdaroglu, in contrast, cast himself as an everyman during the campaign, promising to tackle financial woes — Erdogan’s unorthodox economic policies have contributed to soaring inflation — and strengthen democratic norms.
The election could also impact geopolitical ties in the region. Under Erdogan, Turkey — a NATO member — has continued to maintain relations with Russia since the invasion of Ukraine, even as ties with some European countries have deteriorated.