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Turkey: Could far-right voters be the deciding factor in Sunday’s presidential election?

The two candidates in the second round of the Turkish presidential election: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu
The two candidates in the second round of the Turkish presidential election: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu Copyright Euronews via AP, Ali Unal - Canva
Copyright Euronews via AP, Ali Unal - Canva
By Margaux Racaniere
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Far-right candidate, Sinan Oğan, has become a 'kingmaker' of sorts in the Turkish presidential election. His 2.8 million voters could have the power to decide between incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

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Far-right candidate Sinan Oğan has positioned himself as a "kingmaker" in between rounds of the Turkish presidential election. He could tip the scales in siding with the incumbent president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or his rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu despite only securing 5% of the vote in the first round.

Kılıçdaroğlu has since multiplied the calls for the nationalist candidate to join sides and has u-turned his stance on immigration - specifically on the 3.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey - despite a previous focus on the fight against corruption and the defence of human rights.

"It's a form of inconsistency," Sinan Ciddi, a political scientist who specialises in Turkey and serves as a researcher at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies (FDD) think tank, told Euronews.

“For months they talked about inclusion, inclusiveness, difference. [...] And now, in the space of about ten days, the CHP candidate [Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu] and the party have veered sharply to the right." 

Without success, since the start of the week, Oğan has spoken out in favour of Erdoğan.

However, in previous speeches, he opposed President Erdoğan many times, the far-right candidate had, for example, tried to overthrow the leadership of his former party, the MHP, to protest against him rallying to Erdogan in 2016.

He even came to blows with several members of the AKP in the full Turkish National Assembly.

A young pro-Erdoğan activist recalls the episode of the fight between Sinan Oğan and several AKP deputies.

Will far-right voters support Erdogan?

Oğan is representing the Alliance of Ultranationalists (ATA), a group that broke up after its defeat in the first round. 

The other strong figure in the movement, Ümit Özdağ, has sided with the opposition. Some have compared Özdağ to France's far-right opposition candidate, Marie le Pen.

Alp Eren Kaya/AP
Turkish CHP party leader and Nation Alliance's presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, right, shakes with Umit Ozdag, the leader of the far-right Victory Party,.Alp Eren Kaya/AP

However, it would be simplistic to think that voters will simply follow one or the other, explained Ciddi. 

“We are in uncharted territory. We have never seen the political dynamics of a run-off.

"So, I feel that we may be overestimating the value of these two small right-wing parties […] I think that it will rather be a question of knowing how voters answer this question: 'Who do we want as a leader? Erdoğan or Kılıçdaroğlu?'"

Whatever the final result this Sunday, the far right will, in any case, have succeeded in imposing its hard-line policies until the end of the campaign.

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