Tensions are rising over different reports about which presidential candidate was leading in the knifepoint elections.
Istanbul, Turkey – As Turkey’s election night approached, both sides claimed to be ahead in the vote count and argued over the presentation of ballot figures.
The opposition directed their complaints at the data published by the state-run Anadolu news agency, claiming it was delaying the tally to put their candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu behind President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Anadolu’s figures shortly before 23:00 (20:00 GMT) showed Erdogan, who is seeking a further five-year term after 20 years in power, at 50.13 percent, enough to win him the presidential race in the first round to win and avoid a run-off.
Kilicdaroglu, the candidate of a six-strong alliance led by his Republican People’s Party (CHP), was on 44.09 percent.
However, figures from the Anka news agency showed that Erdogan’s lead was that much smaller, with the president on 48.87 percent and Kilicdaroglu on 45.38 percent of the national vote.
Anadolu then updated its data, reporting Erdogan’s share of votes at 49.94 percent.
That put Kilicdaroglu on 44.4 percent, with the gap between the two frontrunners shrinking. With Erdogan falling below the more than 50 percent mark needed to win the election outright, that makes a runoff vote more likely in two weeks.
Earlier, two senior CHP figures – Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu and his Ankara counterpart Mansur Yavas – heavily criticized Anadolu’s role in the election.
“We are experiencing another Anadolu Agency case,” Imamoglu said. “The agency’s reputation is below zero. They are not to be trusted. Anadolu’s data is void.”
Yavas added: “They are deceiving our nation by running the polls that work for them,” he said. “They don’t feel ashamed either. They have no credibility… According to the data we have, our president Kemal Kilicdaroglu is ahead.”
Omer Celik, spokesman for Erdogan’s AK Party, accused the mayors of trying to usurp the ballot.
“They made a very serious statement,” he said. “They attack the Anadolu Agency and announce an election result. This is a dictatorial approach. It is an attempt to kill the national will.”
We are ahead.
— Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (@kilicdarogluk) May 14, 2023
Kilicdaroglu just kept it simple, tweeting earlier: “We are ahead.”
Turkey’s opposition has accused Anadolu of manipulating the timing of its results in past elections, claiming it always shows an early lead for the AK Party and slows down vote numbers for areas where the opposition is strong.
In a statement on Twitter, Erdogan called on his party workers to keep vigil over the polls until the results were officially finalized – a refrain more commonly heard from the opposition on election nights.
Meanwhile, the race’s third candidate, Sinan Ogan of the right-wing ATA alliance, appears to have garnered more votes than expected. Both Anadolu and Anka showed him at more than 5 percent, a significant achievement for a relatively unknown figure.
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