Turkey’s third-place candidate endorses Erdogan in runoff

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s third-place election candidate endorsed President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, boosting the incumbent and intensifying opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s challenges in a Sunday runoff vote.

Sinan Ogan, a hardline nationalist who was little known among the broader public before the campaign, won 5.2% support in the initial presidential election on May 14, prompting some analysts to call him a potential “kingmaker” for the runoff.

Ogan endorsed Erdogan at a news conference in Ankara and said his campaign made Turkish nationalists “key players” in politics.

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Erdogan got 49.5% support on May 14 compared to Kilicdaroglu at 44.9%, while the ruling party’s coalition won a majority in parliament, giving the president an advantage as he seeks to extend his two-decade rule.

Ogan, 55, a former academic, was the first-round presidential candidate of an alliance of right-wing parties led by the Victory Party, which is known for its anti-immigrant stance in Turkey, the world’s biggest host of refugees.

Kilicdaroglu has pledged to roll back much of Erdogan’s sweeping changes to Turkish domestic, foreign and economic policies, including reversing an unorthodox economic programme to address a cost-of-living crisis.

Erdogan has said a vote for him in the runoff is a vote for stability.

Analysts say Ogan’s support should give Erdogan a boost but also divide Ogan’s supporters. The Victory Party will separately announce its own stance on the runoff on Tuesday.

[Top image: Turkey’s Ata Alliance presidential candidate in May 14 elections Ogan gives interview in Ankara© Thomson Reuters]

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