Sinan Oğan, the nationalist “kingmaker” who came third in Turkey’s closely fought presidential election, is throwing his weight behind President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the runoff on Sunday, although it’s increasingly unclear how many of his first-round supporters will follow his lead.
The previously little-known Oğan built on a wave of anti-migration sentiment to pick up more than five percent of the votes in the presidential election first round, held on May 14. With neither Erdoğan nor his main rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu gaining the outright majority needed to win, despite a turnout of almost 89 percent, both candidates have been working to secure 2.8 million former Oğan supporters ahead of the runoff Sunday. Oğan’s endorsement should be enough to see Erdoğan to victory.
Since the May 14 vote, however, Oğan’s “Ancestral Alliance” has splintered, making it very hard to predict which way his voters will turn on Sunday, as he doesn’t have a coherent party structure to draw on. Of the other senior alliance members, Victory Party Chairman Ümit Özdağ, will announce his position Tuesday, while Justice Party Chairman Vecdet Öz has said he will support Kılıçdaroğlu.
Kılıçdaroğlu’s alliance “could not convince us about the future and missed the mark” when it comes to Turkey’s future stability, Oğan said. Turkey’s nationalists are hostile toward the Kurds, who have been important supporters of the opposition’s campaign, particularly in the country’s southeast.
Erdoğan emerged from the first round with around 2.5 million more votes than his liberal democratic rival, meaning Kılıçdaroğlu would have to win over almost everyone who voted for Oğan in order to get over the line. However, given a significant share of Kılıçdaroğlu’s support came from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) base in the east of the country, he has a fine line to tread between winning over undecided right wingers and alienating Kurdish voters.
Kılıçdaroğlu is facing an uphill struggle to overtake Erdoğan, who won more than 49 percent of first round votes compared with his own tally of 45 per cent.
He has stepped up anti-migrant rhetoric, dropping his grandfatherly persona with love-heart gestures, as he seeks nationalist votes.
On Monday, he released a video targeting undocumented migrants in Turkey.
“Whoever loves his or her country should go to the ballot boxes before these illegals make our girls’ lives miserable,” he tweeted, referring to possible sexual harassment cases involving immigrants. “Don’t forget, this is a referendum.”
Kılıçdaroğlu last week said he would send all Turkey’s refugees — which the U.N. says number more than 3.6 million people — back home, claiming Erdoğan had deliberately allowed 10 million refugees into the country and that millions more are on the way.
Oğan ran as a political outsider, having previously been expelled from the right-wing MHP party, and said he would deliberate carefully before endorsing another candidate.
Prior to the election, he had made it clear his support would come at a price. “We will speak about our demands with the parties we sit at the table with. Obviously we are not going to be partners for free. We will have demands, like ministries,” he said.
However, in an interview with the New York Times on Friday, the 55 year old said he would push for the most senior post possible in a new administration before making his decision. “Why would I be a minister when I can be vice president?” he said, while declining to give any hints about whether he had received offers from either camp.