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Turkish press review: Jubilation at Erdogan victory, as opposition licks its wounds

A divided Turkish press united only in the shock that the election results have placed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a commanding position ahead of a runoff
Supporters of Recep Tayyip Erdogan look at early presidential election results displayed on a screen at AK Party headquarters in Istanbul on 14 May (AFP)

Turkish voters woke up this morning following an historic nail-biting election that, as of Monday, seems to be going to a runoff. 

Neither the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan nor opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu crossed the 50 percent threshold needed to win the presidency. 

Erdogan received 49.4 percent of the votes, just short of an outright victory with 99 percent of the votes counted. His main competitor, Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP), only managed 44.96 percent.  

The headline from the AKP-leaning Sabah newspaper was jubilant: “From the national will, trust in Erdogan!”

“The West’s dirty games or the PKK/HDP international threats of war did nothing,” the daily exclaimed, regarding accusations made by the ruling government that the West was seeking to tilt the election towards the opposition. 

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“The national will destroyed all traps,” wrote Sabah. 

The Milliyet daily, another AKP-leaning newspaper, described the elections simply as “breathless”, a sentiment most Turks and those observing abroad likely felt following the tight election run. 

In a race that started with a 25-point difference between the two candidates, the race was now as tight as "a pair of closed scissors", said the Milliyet daily. 

'Erdogan has never remained in power through non-electoral means, even for a day'

-Yasin Aktay, Yeni Safak

Turkish daily Yeni Safak led with “Erdogan is clearly ahead,” proclaiming a “new dawn” for the republic. 

Yasin Aktay, a columnist in the AKP leaning newspaper, said that the real Turkey wasn’t on social media or present in the polling agencies that called the results wrongly. The ballot boxes were a true reflection of the country.

“Erdogan has never remained in power through non-electoral means, even for a day,” said Aktay despite what the opposition and western media outlets tell their readers he added.

The centrist Hurriyet daily was more restrained, simply stating the obvious “It didn’t finish in one day”, as Turkish voters seem to be heading again to the polls in just under two weeks' time. 

Hurriyet added that the country lived through a “democratic festival”, which saw voter turnout reach 86.9 percent and both sides campaigning until the last minute in a bid to secure a democratic mandate. 

'Erdogan lost'

By comparison, the CHP-leaning newspaper Cumhuriyet prematurely declared Erdogan as the loser with the headline simply stating "Erdogan lost".

“According to various election data at the time our newspaper went out last night, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the presidential candidate of the Nation Alliance, appears to be in the lead,” the daily said, laying out its reasons. 

“Under these conditions, Kemal Kilicdaroglu is leading the election. Erdogan lost the presidential election," wrote the daily. The premature declaration was widely derided as an opposition attempt to refuse to concede victory. 

'In a country like Turkey, which is prone to politics and whose daily life is determined by politics, every election is a turning point. So is May 14'

- Mustafa Karaalioglu, Karar newspaper

Sozcu, another CHP opposition leaning newspaper, was more scathing, with the leading headlines stating that the government “manipulated” the results by staggering them in a way that benefited Erdogan.

“Turkey’s fateful election was marked by the constant objections of AKP supporters to stop the counting in ballot boxes where the CHP is strong,” said the daily, adding that there were allegations of manipulation in the foreign votes. 

There has been little documented evidence for this but it’s a widely held belief amongst the opposition. 

Yekta Gungor Ozden, a columnist in Sozcu, said that the country needed further “social enlightenment” following the election results. 

“The political developments have resulted in an inability to meet the national will,” advocated by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, said Ozden. 

Erdogan's election to lose 

Karar newspaper, a conservative-leaning daily, led with a muted headline, “The electorate will think again.”

Mustafa Karaalioglu, a columnist for the paper, said “Erdogan achieved a very successful result”, a clear indication of his “political skills and expressive power” to connect with voters.

This is now Erdogan’s election to lose, added Karaalioglu. 

Kilicdaroglu's measure of success would have been if he finished first in the first round, even if the election went to runoff, added Karaalioglu, now the would-be president lacks a majority in parliament and has to find extra votes. 

“In a country like Turkey, which is prone to politics and whose daily life is determined by politics, every election is a turning point. So is May 14,” said Karaalioglu.

“The fact that the government received such high votes despite the economic crisis and a series of problems should not be approached with prejudice."

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