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Erdogan vs. Kilicdaroglu: What to expect in Turkey's first ever election runoff

Though polls give a lead to the incumbent president, a victory by the main opposition leader in Sunday’s presidential runoff seems still possible depending on a combination of challenging factors.
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - MAY 25: People walk past an election campaign poster for Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 25, 2023 in Istanbul, Turkey. The country is holding its first presidential runoff election after neither candidate earned more than 50% of the vote in the May 14 election. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

ANKARA — As Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his rival, main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, prepare to face each other in a presidential runoff on Sunday, the incumbent president is streaking ahead, polls show.

Several surveys released this week gave Erdogan a single-digit lead, including Al-Monitor/Premise poll that showed Erdogan leading 40% to 39% for Kilicdaroglu. A survey by prominent Istanbul-based pollster Konda put support for Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu at 53.4% and 46.6%, respectively. Another Istanbul-based pollster, Saros Research, also gave Erdogan more than a 4% lead. The public’s confidence in pollsters has plummeted following the majority of research companies’ failure to predict the results of the first round of the presidential race. Several polls released before May 14 elections had given the lead to the main opposition leader.

Given a nearly five-point lead Erdogan secured in the first round of the presidential race, however, the country’s strongman is widely expected to extend his authoritarian rule over to another consecutive term.

A Kilicdaroglu victory seems still possible but depends on a combination of challenging factors. Chief among them is securing the support of undecided voters. The Al-Monitor/Premise poll put the undecideds as high as 15%. Others showed the undecided at around 8%. 

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