ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – The third-placed candidate in Turkey’s presidential election on Monday officially endorsed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the May 28 second-round runoff.
Nationalist presidential candidate Sinan Ogan, 55, has emerged as a potential kingmaker after neither Erdogan nor his main challenger, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, achieved the majority needed for a first-round victory on May 14.
Ogan, a former academic backed by a far-right anti-immigrant party, won 5.17% in the May 14 vote and, now that he is out of the race, may hold the key to winning the runoff.
His support for Erdogan came days after he held a surprise meeting with the Turkish leader in Istanbul on Friday. No comment was made after the hour-long session.
Ogan had received votes from people who disapproved of Erdogan’s policies but did not want support for Kilicdaroglu, who leads Turkey’s centre-left, pro-secular main opposition party.
Analysts say that despite Ogan’s support, it is not certain that all of his supporters will back Erdogan. Some would likely switch to Kilicdaroglu, while others could choose not to run in the runoff. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that the anti-immigration party, which backed Ogan, has not yet announced which of the two candidates it would back.
Erdogan received 49.5% of the vote in the first ballot – just under the majority needed for an overall victory – compared to Kilicdaroglu’s 44.9%.
Erdogan’s ruling AK party and its nationalist and Islamist allies also retained a majority in the 600-seat parliament. That increases Erdogan’s chances of re-election as voters are likely to vote for him to avoid a fragmented government, analysts say.
Speaking to Turkish media last week, Ogan listed the conditions for getting his support. These included a tough stance on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a timeline for the expulsion of millions of refugees, including nearly 3.7 million Syrians.
Erdogan, meanwhile, said in an interview with CNN International that he would not bow to such demands.
“I’m not a person who likes to negotiate. It will be the people who are the kingmakers,” he said.
In an apparent attempt to sway nationalist voters, Kilicdaroglu sharpened his tone last week by promising to turn back refugees and, if elected, to rule out any peace negotiations with the PKK.