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Turkey elections: Ogan endorses Erdogan in presidential runoff

Third-placed ultra-nationalist candidate announces support for the president in a televised statement
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Sinan Ogan, nationalist candidate of the first round of presidential elections and eliminated when he came third, pose before a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, on 19 May 2023 (Reuters)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Sinan Ogan, nationalist candidate of the first round of presidential elections and eliminated when he came third, in Istanbul, Turkey, on 19 May 2023 (Reuters)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

The third-placed candidate in Turkey's presidential election has thrown his support behind President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sunday's runoff vote, as Middle East Eye reported he would do. 

Ultra-nationalist Sinan Ogan announced his endorsement in a televised statement on Monday.

"Our meetings with both candidates took place with statesmanly and mutual courtesy," Ogan said. "As a result of these negotiations and consultations and messages from the grassroots, I declare that we will support the president." 

Ogan said he wanted to support stability, citing the majority won in parliament by an Erdogan-led alliance.

He added that the country's defence industry policies must continue, and the Organisation of Turkic States - an alliance of Turkic countries - must be supported. He also said that the government needed to address the number of refugees residing in Turkey and review its interest rate policy. 

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Earlier in the day, two sources familiar with negotiations between Ogan and presidential candidates told MEE that the endorsement was set to be announced in televised remarks.

“When we evaluate these elections in terms of the goals and targets we have set before the society, we have made Turkish nationalism and Kemalism the agenda of the country,” Ogan said. 

“We contributed to the visibility of a strong and nationalist electorate in Turkey. We ensured that the candidates who made it to the second round embraced our rhetoric.”

Erdogan will go head-to-head with the opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu in a presidential runoff election on Sunday as neither of the two candidates surpassed 50 percent in the first round on 14 May.

The president secured 49.40 percent of votes while Kilicdaroglu won 44.96 percent and 5.2 percent went to Ogan. 

Last week, Turkish opposition officials told MEE they expected Ogan to throw his support behind Kilicdaroglu in a public statement on Friday. However, after meeting with Erdogan the same day, he is thought to have changed course. 

Ogan outperformed expectations in the 14 May elections, with most polls before the vote predicting he would struggle to surpass three percent.

Middle East Eye's analysis of preliminary results suggests that Ogan clawed votes away from both Erdogan in his strongholds and Kilicdaroglu voters in opposition strongholds.

He ran as the presidential candidate of the Ancestral Alliance, a combination of the Victory Party, Justice Party and two other small nationalist parties. 

The alliance was broken up following the election after none of its candidates won any parliamentary seats. 

Umit Ozdag, leader of the Victory Party, said on Monday that his party had left the bloc and would now take independent stances. 

Nationalist pledges

Ogan built his presidential campaign on pledges of sending refugees back to their countries and aggressively pursuing “terrorists”, including Kurdish armed groups such as the PKK. 

He criticised both the government and opposition for alliances with pro-Kurdish parties, claiming they were a threat to Turkey’s unitarian structure, which encourages political and ethnic centralisation.

"Every segment has the right to engage in politics and this right should be guaranteed, but the political extensions of terrorism must be cleared from Turkish politics," he said on Monday.

Turkey elections: Kilicdaroglu finally has a plan for the run-off and its main theme is fear
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The ultranationalist figure initially set out four red lines for throwing his support behind a candidate in the runoff. 

Firstly, he said that the first four articles of the constitution must be untouched. These articles are considered foundational, and state that Turkey is a secular, democratic and unitary nation state with Turkish as its official language.

He also said that refugees must be sent back to their countries, and economic policies had to change. His final red line was that the fight against terror groups must continue. 

The presence of some 3.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey has become a controversial issue in recent years, with anti-refugee rhetoric ramping up around the election. Both Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu have said they intend to see imminent refugee returns, however the latter's rhetoric has become increasingly hostile since his first-round loss.

Erdogan, meanwhile, has been more equivocal on Syrian returns, though has indicated that his government is drawing up plans to repatriate a million refugees.

On Monday, Ogan said he'd been given a timeframe of refugee returns. "This calendar will work. All conditions will be created for their repatriation," he said.

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