How will defunct ‘kingmaker’ alliance affect Turkey’s election?

The first round of Turkey’s key presidential elections saw a third nationalist candidate and his alliance potentially emerge as a determining force on the fate of the run-off vote that takes place on Sunday.

In the May 14 polls, incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan scored 49.5 percent of the ballots, while the candidate of the main opposition alliance, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, acquired 44.8 percent.The third candidate, Sinan Ogan, who was a not familiar figure to the Turkish public before the polls, took 5.2 percent in the election with the backing of the newly established ultranationalist ATA Alliance led by the Victory Party of Umit Ozdag, a seasoned far-right politician. The alliance secured 2.4 percent of the votes in the May 14 parliamentary election.

With such an outcome, the nationalist nominee and the alliance emerged as possible kingmakers in the aftermath of the first round – until their recent fallout, that is.

Analysts say some of their votes came from the backers of a fourth candidate, Muharrem Ince, who withdrew from the race days before the first round, as well as some younger people who dislike both Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu.

Mesut Yegen, a professor of sociology at Istanbul’s Sehir University, said there is a voter bloc that wants to see neither main contender as president and is unimpressed with the mainstream political parties in Turkey today.“Many of them have secular sensitivities and, therefore, they are against the religion-based conservative politics Erdogan and his People’s Alliance pursue,” Yegen told Al Jazeera.

He added this group is also disturbed by the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party’s support for Kilicdaroglu and cooperation between the two sides.

Ogan, an academic of international relations, entered parliament in 2011 with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – the closest ally of Erdogan and his party today – before launching an unsuccessful bid for its leadership in 2015, after which he was expelled.

He had been away from politics since then until he was named a presidential candidate through a deal he reached with Ozdag.Meanwhile, Ozdag, a professor of international relations, is a former deputy leader of the MHP who later took the same position in the IYI Party, which is in Kilicdaroglu’s alliance, before being expelled and establishing the Victory Party in 2021.The party has grown public support using ultranationalist rhetoric in a country hit hard by its worst economic crisis in decades, and embracing anti-refugee sentiment rapidly spreading among struggling Turks.

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