Turkey: Opposition’s Kilicdaroglu leads ahead of incumbent Erdoğan in polls

A survey by the closely-watched pollster Konda on Thursday showed Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan lagging his main rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu by more than five percentage points ahead of Sunday’s presidential election.

The survey put support for Erdoğan at 43.7 percent and Kilicdaroglu at 49.3 percent, leaving him short of the majority needed to win in the first round and suggesting the election would go to a run-off between the two men on May 28.

The findings reinforced the impression that Erdoğan faces the biggest challenge of his two-decade rule in the vote. They were largely in line with some other polls that put Kilicdaroglu, candidate of the main opposition alliance, ahead.

Erdoğan’s task has been complicated by a cost-of-living crisis, triggered by a lira slump and soaring inflation, and a devastating earthquake in February which killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey and left millions homeless.

The survey, carried out May 6-7, put support for the other two candidates at 4.8 percent for Sinan Ogan and 2.2 percent for Muharrem Ince. Konda said the majority of their voters were leaning towards voting for Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in a second round.

A Metropoll survey also showed the vote going to a second round, with Kilicdaroglu getting 49.1 percent and Erdogan 46.9 percent In a run-off, it showed Kilicdaroglu winning with 51.3 percent.

But Hakan Akbas, managing director of Strategic Advisory Services, an Istanbul-based political advisory, said Erdoğan seemed to be on track to achieve what he was hoping: a run-off with Kilicdaroglu.

“Given the earthquakes and economic crisis, this would still be a success for him. What matters now even more is parliamentary results,” he said.

“If it is a hung parliament, Erdoğan will appeal to voters to select stability over chaos, likely following a coalition of six opposition parties.”

The Konda survey put support for Erdoğan’s ruling alliance on 44.0 percent in the parliamentary vote, ahead of the main opposition alliance on 39.9 percent. The pro-Kurdish HDP party, which is backing Kilicdaroglu, is expected to play a ‘kingmaker’ role.

Konda said the HDP, running under another party’s emblem due to the threat of a court ban, and its leftist allies are seen winning 12.3 percent of support in the parliamentary vote. That would leave Erdoğan and his allies in the minority.

“There is no doubt that Erdoğan is facing a majority that wants change - and that includes younger people," said Asli Aydintasbas, a Brookings Institution visiting fellow. “The only question is whether folks believe Kilicdaroglu is that agent of change.”

“Whether he barely wins or not, I feel like the Erdoğan era is over,” she added. "Turkish society is ready to move on. And sadly President Erdoğan is not leaving behind an institutional governance model.”