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Turkish President Erdogan Heads to a Runoff Election That Will Decide Who Leads a Key NATO Country

A person walks past billboards of Turkish President and People's Alliance's presidential candidate Recep Tayyip Erdogan a day after the presidential election day, in Istanbul, Turkey, Monday, May 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
A person walks past billboards of Turkish President and People’s Alliance’s presidential candidate Recep Tayyip Erdogan a day after the presidential election day, in Istanbul, Turkey, Monday, May 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Turkish voters will head back to the polls in two weeks for a runoff election to decide if conservative President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or his main rival will lead a country struggling with sky-high inflation as it plays a key role in NATO expansion and in the Middle East.

The May 28 second round of presidential elections that election officials announced Monday will allow Turkey to decide if the nation remains under the increasingly authoritarian president for a third decade, or if it can embark on the more democratic course that Kemal Kilicdaroglu has claimed he can deliver.

As in previous years, the nationalist Erdogan led a highly divisive campaign.

He portrayed Kilicdaroglu, who had received the backing of the country’s pro-Kurdish party, of colluding with “terrorists” and of supporting what he called “deviant” LGBTQ rights. As a devout leader of the predominantly Muslim country, which was founded on secular principles, Erdogan has had the backing of conservative voters and has courted more Islamists with his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

In a bid to woo voters hit hard by inflation, he increased wages and pensions and subsidized electricity and gas bills, while showcasing Turkey’s homegrown defense industry and infrastructure projects.

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