Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to stay in power for five more years after being president for 20 years. In the last few hours of the election, things are getting worse.
Before Sunday’s run-off vote, opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu promised to eliminate millions of Syrian refugees to get votes from nationalists.
The president said he was spreading hate speech and that if Kilicdaroglu had won, terrorists would have won.
In the first round, the candidate running against the winner was 2.5 million points behind.
The president is the favorite, but his opponent thinks the gap could still be closed by the 2.8 million people who voted for the third-placed ultranationalist candidate or the 8 million people who didn’t vote in the first round.
This week, Mr. Kilicdaroglu took questions from the public for four hours on a YouTube program called BaBaLa TV. The show has been watched 24 million times, and there are 85 million people in Turkey.
Mehtep, who works to get young people to vote, thinks the YouTube event could work. “Being on BaBaLa TV made a lot of young voters who didn’t vote the first time vote,” he says.
She is a member of the nationalist, center-right Good party. This party has backed the opposing candidate and is led by Meral Aksener, the only woman in Turkish politics.
This was a smart move for a candidate who wanted to beat his rival, who already had an edge because he controlled about 90% of Turkish media.
International observers say that voters may have had a natural choice but that Turkey “did not meet the basic principles for holding a democratic election.”
In the past six years, President Erdogan has not only gained a lot of power but has also cracked down on criticism and put political opponents in jail.
Erdogan has been in charge of Turkey for the past 20 years.
The financial markets thought that if Erdogan won, it would lead to more economic uncertainty, so the Turkish lira hit a record low against the dollar on Friday. The number of people who want foreign currency has increased, and for the first time since 2002, the central bank’s net foreign currency stocks have gone into the negative.
That won’t be a big deal in Bala, an hour’s drive southeast of Ankara.
Even though all the major parties have buildings on the high street, more than 60% of voters there backed President Erdogan two weeks ago.
Al Ozdemir owns a doner kebab shop across the street from the president’s party offices. He says he will vote for Mr. Erdogan for another five years.
But another store wouldn’t tell the BBC who he voted for because he didn’t want to lose customers who voted for Erdogan.
For months, the main problem was Turkey’s struggling economy, but as Sunday’s run-off has gotten closer, the rhetoric has gotten worse, and refugees are at the center of it.
Gone is the 74-year-old party leader whose heart-shaped hands brought people together. Instead, he is trying to win over people who voted for Sinan Ogan, the ultranationalist leader, two Sundays ago.
Even though Mr. Ogan voted for the president, the opposition leader got the support of the anti-immigrant Victory Party, led by Umit Ozdag, and won 1.2 million votes.
This week, the leader of the Victory Party said that Mr. Kilicdaroglu had decided to send back “13 million migrants” within a year, “according to international law.”
Turkey takes in more people than any other country, but not even close to that many.
Prof. Murat Erdogan, who does a regular field study called Syrians Barometer and is unrelated to President Erdogan, thinks that the overall number of Syrian refugees and immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan is closer to six or seven million.
Prof. Erdogan says, “Their talk doesn’t make sense, and it’s physically impossible.” “We can’t do it voluntarily, and if we do it by force, we’d have to send back more than 50,000 people every day.”
Even though the language is terrible, it might make a difference. Polls show that as many as 85% of Turks want refugees from the war in Syria to go home.
Nezih Onur Kuru, a political scientist at Koc University, says that both sides need to keep the support of nationalist parties. Mr. Kilicdaroglu is playing on the fears of many voters, especially young ones, about security.
“He knows that the level of perceived threats is too high because of the immigrant crisis, terrorist attacks, and wars involving Russia, Syria, and Azerbaijan.”
President Erdogan says he is already sending Syrian refugees back and plans to send even more. The far-right nationalist MHP is his main partner.
He has also gone on the offensive. At a gathering, he used a video that had been changed to say that his opponent was linked to the Kurdish militant PKK, which is seen as a terror group in both the West and Turkey.
Friday, he said that if Kilicdaroglu won, “terrorist groups” would have won.
His goal is the big pro-Kurdish HDP party, which backs Mr. Kilicdaroglu and which President Erdogan has tried many times to link to the PKK militants. The HDP says there are no such ties.
The HDP is supporting Mr. Kilicdaroglu for now because it wants to end Turkey’s “one-man rule.” But it is worried that he is working with a patriot on the far right.
At first, people thought President Erdogan could be beaten because of how badly he ran Turkey’s economy and handled the earthquakes in February.
But almost half of people still voted for him. The question is whether Mr. Kilicdaroglu’s new plan will be successful.
“I wanted a change, and so did my customers,” says Songul in her Bala chicken restaurant.
But she says that in the end, they are all sticking with the president because they don’t trust the vice president: “I’ll vote for Erdogan because I don’t have any other choice.”