Turkey’s third-place candidate endorses Erdogan in runoff

On Monday, Turkey’s third place candidate in the election endorsed President Tayyip Erdoan. This boosted the incumbent while increasing the challenge for the opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu ahead of the Sunday run-off vote.

Sinan Ogan, who had little recognition among the public prior to the election, received 5.2% of the vote in the first presidential elections on May 14. This led some analysts, including myself, to describe him as a possible “kingmaker” during the runoff.

Ogan said at a press briefing in Ankara that he would support Recep Tayyip Erdoan, the candidate of the People’s Alliance in the second round. He added that his campaign made Turkish nationalists into “key players” within politics.

Kilicdaroglu’s Nation Alliance “failed to impress us with its future,” he said, while the decision to support Erdogan was based upon a principle of “non-stop (fighting) against terrorism.”

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On May 14, Erdogan won 49.5% of the vote compared to Kilicdaroglu’s 44.9%. The ruling coalition also gained a majority in Parliament. This gives Erdogan an edge as he tries to extend his two decade rule in one of the most important elections Turkey has ever seen.

Ogan, a 55-year-old former academic and a former professor, was the first round presidential candidate for an alliance of right-wing political parties led by Victory Party. Victory Party is well-known in Turkey as the party that takes a strong anti-immigrant stand.

Ogan told Reuters in an interview last week that his aim was to eliminate two mainly Kurdish political parties from Turkey and to strengthen Turkish nationalists.

The Kurdish-Islamist Huda-Par has backed Erdogan, while the pro-Kurdish HDP has endorsed Kilicdaroglu.

Kilicdaroglu pledged to reverse many of Erdogan’s radical changes to Turkish economic, foreign, and domestic policies. This includes reversing a unorthodox economic program to deal with a rising cost-of living crisis.

Erdogan said that voting for him is a vote of stability.

Erdogan’s delight at Ogan expressing his approval in an interview with TRT, the state broadcaster late Monday evening.

Erdogan stated that the union of forces would be beneficial to our nation and country, and that he and Ogan agreed on many topics including the fight against terror and relations with Turkic States.

Erdogan, commenting on Ogan’s anti-immigrant position, said that his government had already planned to resettle 1 million Syrian refugees, and a timeline for this plan could be discussed with the Syrian government in discussions after the runoff.

Support for Nationalists

Analysts believe Ogan’s backing for Erdogan will give him a boost, but it may also cause rifts among Ogan’s fans. The Victory Party is expected to announce separately its own position on the runoff Tuesday.

The pollsters, who thought Kilicdaroglu was leading the opinion polls, were shocked by Erdogan’s impressive showing at the first vote. Later, they attributed the results to an unexpected surge of nationalist support.

Kilicdaroglu last week, the head of the Republican People’s Party, a secularist party, and candidate for a six-party coalition, stepped up his rhetoric and promised to send all migrants home once elected.

The Justice Party, a small member of Ogan’s alliance, has endorsed Kilicdaroglu for the runoff.

Last week, an Ogan fan said that she would not vote for the two remaining candidates because they were unappealing.

“I did not vote in the second ballot. I voted for Ogan during the first round.” Fidan, a 33-year-old German who lives in Germany said, “My heart and mind say no” to both candidates aligned with terror organizations.

Ogan was elected to the MHP in 2011, but he later lost his bid for leadership.