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Turkey's nationalist candidate basks in glory ahead of Erdogan-Kilicdaroglu runoff

Incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his secularist challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu each plot strategy behind closed doors as nationalist candidate Sinan Ogan ponders whom to support.
Sinan Ogan

IZMIR, Turkey — Turkey's presidential rivals plotted their runoff strategy behind closed doors Tuesday while Sinan Ogan, the nationalist candidate who unexpectedly garnered 3 million votes in the first round, basked in glory, enjoying being called the kingmaker.

After a long Sunday night in Turkey’s nail-biting dual presidential and parliamentary elections, the country’s electoral authority announced that incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led the first round with 49.5% (27.1 million votes). Opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, tipped by many polls as the winner, received 44.9% (24.6 million). However, the surprise came from Sinan Ogan, the initially overlooked candidate of the nationalist ATA Alliance who received 5.2% (2.8 million), leading many pundits in Turkey and beyond to conclude that nationalism was the winner of the first round. 

Ogan made his rounds with national and international media saying he has yet to decide whom to endorse. “We will continue our talks with both sides for one or two days. Once we make a decision, whoever we endorse will win,” Ogan told CNN International’s Becky Anderson. 

But many analysts think that the man without a party and institutional structure to support him might be overplaying his hand. “What he got were mostly protest votes,” Zeynep Gurcanli, a political commentator on the pro-Kilicdaroglu television channel KRT, said. “They are not necessarily his to give.” Gurcanli also expressed doubt that what he would bring to Kilicdaroglu would be worth alienating Kurdish or leftist support worth around 8-10%. 

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