Turkey faces runoff election for president

STORY: Hours after polls closed on Sunday, Turkey appeared headed for a runoff presidential election, with rival parties both claiming the lead.

But sources in camps of both incumbent President Tayyip Erdogan and challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu admitted they may not clear the 50% threshold to win outright.

Early results put Erdogan comfortably ahead, but as the count continued, his advantage slid.

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Sunday's vote is one of the most consequential elections in the country's 100-year history, a contest that could end Erdogan's 20-year rule and reverberate well beyond Turkey's borders.

As one of President Vladimir Putin's closest allies, a defeat for Erdogan would likely unnerve the Kremlin but comfort the Biden administration, as well as many European and Middle Eastern leaders who had troubled relations with Erdogan.

Turkey's longest-serving leader has turned the NATO member country of 85 million into a global player, modernized it through megaprojects, and built a military industry sought by foreign states.

But his volatile economic policy of low interest rates set off a spiraling cost of living crisis and inflation, angering voters. His government's slow response to a devastating earthquake in southeast Turkey that killed 50,000 people added to voters' dismay.

Kilicdaroglu has pledged to set Turkey on a new course by reviving democracy after years of state repression, returning to orthodox economic policies, empowering institutions who lost autonomy under Erdogan's tight grasp and rebuilding ties with the West.

If neither candidate secures 50 percent of Sunday's vote, the runoff election will be held May 28.

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