The second round of Turkey’s presidential election is on Sunday. There are more than 2.8 million reasons why Recep Tayyip Erdogan will probably still be in power on Monday.

He made it to the two-candidate runoff with 49.5% of the vote in the first round ballot two weeks ago. That put him comfortably ahead of second placed Kemal Kilicdaroglu who secured only 44.8%. This brings into play the 5.17% of support for the ultra-nationalist candidate Sinan Ogan who endorsed Erdogan after being knocked out.

The President’s AK party and its coalition partners have already held on to control of Parliament, winning 322 seats out of 600. Ogan claims this was the main reason he now backs Erdogan saying: “It is important that the new president is under the same leadership as the parliament”. The margin of Erdogan’s lead in the first round presidential vote equals 2.5 million votes while Ogan’s 5.17% vote share adds up to 2.8 million people, many of whom will switch to Erdogan this weekend.

The incumbent can’t count on all of them though. Ogan led a coalition of nationalists called “Ancestral Alliance” but it has already split and the leader of part of the group, Omit Ozdag, of the far-right Victory Party, has declared for Kilicdaroglu.

Despite that, only a surprise rejection of his endorsement by Ogan’s supporters, an unlikely mass mobilisation of Kilicdaroglu base, and a low turnout of Erdogan voters will prevent the latter from continuing his 20-year reign.

Kilicdaroglu appears desperate. The opposition had finally come together after years of fractious disputes to field a single candidate but already people are asking – “Did we choose the right one?”.  He has dropped his kindly grandfather persona and stepped-up anti-immigrant rhetoric in a bid to eat into the ultra-nationalist vote. Ozdag’s Victory Party only swung in behind him after he promised to expel millions of migrants from Turkey within a year, including Syrian refugees of whom there are about 3.5 million.

It hasn’t been pretty. In a speech Kilicdarglu said: “I am announcing it here – as soon as I come to power, I will send all refugees home. Period.” A few days later billboards appeared in urban areas showing Kilicdaroglu’s image and the words “Syrians will leave!”. The posters did not bear the name of his party (CHP) but it did not distance itself from them.

Erdogan appears close to victory despite overseeing an economic crisis with inflation at 43%, and a poorly run disaster relief effort following the February earthquakes. His vote held up well even in the affected region. The 5.2 million first time young voters did not follow the media narrative that they would fall in solidly behind the opposition, and some agree with the government’s argument that a “renewed” presidency and newly elected parliament working together may be the answer to Turkey’s woes. Kilicdarglu may also have been hurt by the fact that a major part of the coalition he represents comprises Kurdish, or pro-Kurdish, parties, a fact which plays badly in a country where sections of the electorate equate Kurds with terrorism.

It is true that 69-year-old Erdogan has an in-built electoral advantage. He, and his allies, control the mainstream media which is still where the overwhelming majority of Turks get their news from. According to opposition figures on the Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council in April, during the run up to the first round, Erdogan was on state TV for 32 hours, Kilicdarglu was granted 32 minutes. Those figures are contested but it’s clear that the president was, and is, afforded far more airtime.

If, as expected, he remains president, his existing problems will remain. There is growing domestic pressure to repatriate the Syrian (and other) refugees, and continuing pressure on the economy. The first of these issues could trigger a panicked flight westwards by people unwilling to return home, the second means Erdogan may be back in Berlin and Brussels for another bribe to keep the Western gates locked. The fight against the Kurdish PKK is a constant, and Turkey’s military presence in Syria is unlikely to diminish. NATO countries will expect a decision by Turkey on whether to allow Sweden into the alliance, and will watch closely to see if he will swing in behind them on Ukraine, and/or position himself as the mediator between Kyiv and Moscow.

The cool rhetorical disdain towards European countries is unlikely to change even if, when it comes to trade, multiple deals will continue to be done. Ankara will continue to look towards the central Asian republics as an area it can compete in with China and Russia for influence, and the push into Africa will continue. The latter is done mostly off the media radar but Turkish influence throughout the continent is growing from the hard power of arms sales of drones and other weapons to the soft power roll out of TRT Afrika (TV).

Foreign countries have got used to President Erdogan even if most find it difficult to deal with him. That looks likely to continue.

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