Erdogan and Turkey# 039 appear to be poised to remain in power after the presidential run-off election.

ISTANBUL — Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, appears set to extend his leadership of the influential NATO member after seeing the strongest challenge to his 20-year rule.

ISTANBUL – After the most serious challenge to his 20 year rule, Turkey’s President, Recep TAYYIP Erdogan appears to be extending his leadership in the influential NATO country.

Early results of Sunday’s crucial runoff election show that Erdogan is set to remain in power for another five years. The vote was closely watched from Washington, Kyiv, Moscow and Beijing. According to Anadolu, preliminary results indicate that Erdogan has won 59.7%.

Anadolu reports that Kemal Kilicdaroglu (the opposition candidate) who promised to restore democracy is in the lead with 42,91% of votes.

Muhammed S. Korkutata, Anadolu Agency (via Getty Images)

Erdogan’s apparent victory in the Turkish Republic centenary celebrations comes after one the most heatedly contested elections for president in recent history.

After the first round of voting, on May 14, , both Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu failed to win more than 50% of votes each in the run-off election.

Erdogan has pushed Turkey further towards authoritarianism, despite being a NATO member and holding elections.

Kilicdaroglu is the joint candidate for an alliance of opposition party. He has promised to turn the country back towards democracy.

The chance to change the country, where Erdogan’s AK Party had been in power since 2003. Erdogan, who is 69 years old, was appointed prime minister in 2012 and became president of the United States in 2014.

Erdogan trailed in the opinion polls after a campaign that was dominated by the aftermath of the devastating quake and the economic turmoil of the country. He led in the first round and was only narrowly short of a victory.

Both candidates were trying to boost their nationalist credentials before the runoff by focusing on the steep cost of living crisis and the backlash against the millions of Syrian refugees.

Kilicdaroglu is the leader of the center-left Republican People’s Party (or CHP), a secular party, since 2010. Kilicdaroglu had said that he would repatriate all refugees in two years if he could create favorable conditions. However, he then promised to send them home as soon as he became president.

Turkish CHP party leader and Nation Alliance’s presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu during a rally in Ankara on May 12.

Ali Unal / AP

Erdogan courted, and then won, the support of Sinan Ogan. The former academic, who had been endorsed for the presidency by a party that was anti-migrant, but was eliminated after coming in third place in the first round.

Ogan, on the campaign trail said that he would send migrants back with force if needed.

Erdogan, who is a conservative, has also increased wages, pensions and subsidies for electricity and gas in an attempt to win over voters. He also ran a divisive election campaign, accusing the opposition of being drunkards and conspiring with terrorists.

On May 14, Turkey held legislative elections. Erdogan’s coalition of nationalists and Islamists won a majority within the 600-seat parliament. Some analysts believed that this would give Erdogan an advantage in the next round, as voters are unlikely to want a split government.

Kilicdaroglu is a 74-year old soft-spoken man who built a reputation for building bridges. He recorded videos in the kitchen to reach out to voters.

His six-party Nation Alliance pledged to demolish the executive presidential system, which was narrowly approved by a referendum in 2017. Erdogan has centralized his power into a 1,000-room mansion on the outskirts of Ankara. From there, he decides Turkey’s domestic and international policies as well as its economic and security policy.

Kilicdaroglu, and his alliance, have also promised to restore the country to a democratic parliamentary system, establish checks and balances, and reverse the backsliding of democracy and the crackdowns against free speech and dissent that occurred under Erdogan.

The results of the referendum will have a wide range of implications outside Turkey. Turkey is strategically located at a crossroads between Europe and Asia. The country, despite being a NATO Member, has kept close ties to Russia and prevented Sweden from joining the Western military alliance.

The Turkish military is the second-largest in NATO after the U.S. It controls the crucial Bosporus Strait, and it’s widely believed that U.S. nukes are on its territory.

Together with the U.N. Turkey brokered an important deal which has allowed Ukraine ship grain across the Black Sea and to areas of the world that are struggling with hunger.

Neyran E. Elden reported on the situation in Istanbul, and Henry Austin reported from London.

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