Ogan declares support for Erdogan in Turkey election run-off

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ANKARA (AP) The third-ranked candidate in the Turkish presidential election formally endorsed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the second round of elections on May 28.

Nationalist Party presidential candidate Sinan Ogan, 55, said neither Erdogan nor his main challenger, opposition leader Kemal Kirikdaroglu, could achieve the majority needed to win the first round of voting on May 14. As a result, it has emerged as a potential kingmaker.

“I declare my support for People’s Alliance candidate Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the second election,” he said, referring to President Erdogan’s coalition that includes nationalist and Islamist parties.

“We believe our decision is the right decision for our country and the nation,” Mr. Organ said.

A former academic backed by a far-right anti-immigrant party, Ogan could be key to winning the runoff after missing out on May 14, winning 5.17% of the vote. The ruling AK party, led by Erdogan, and its nationalist-Islamist coalition also retained a majority in the 600-strong parliament. Analysts say voters are likely to vote for Erdogan to avoid a split in the government, increasing his chances of being re-elected.

Mr Organ cited Mr Erdogan’s parliamentary majority as the reason for the decision.

“It’s important that the newly elected president is under the same leadership as Congress,” Mr. Organ said. “On the other hand, [Kilikdaroglu’s] coalition has failed to perform well against the People’s Alliance, which has been in power for 20 years, and has failed to establish a convincing vision for the future.”

Erdogan’s endorsement came days after a surprise meeting with the Turkish leader in Istanbul. There were no comments after the approximately hour-long session.

Mr Ogan said that he would not be involved in a horse deal with the Turkish leader.

Mr. Ogan had drawn votes from people who opposed Mr. Erdogan’s policies but did not want to support Turkey’s center-left, pro-secular main opposition leader, Kirikda Rogl.

Analysts said it was unclear whether all of his supporters would back Mr. Erdogan despite Mr. Ogan’s support. Some will probably switch to Kirikdaroglu, but others will choose not to run for the runoff. Umit Ozdag, leader of the Anti-Immigration Victory Party, who backed Mr. Ogan, appears to have distanced himself from the decision to support Mr. Erdogan.

“Mr Sinan Ogan’s statement is his own political decision. This statement does not reflect the views of the victorious party and is not binding on the party,” Ozdag tweeted Tuesday.

Mr. Ogan told Turkish media last week the conditions under which he would be eligible for the aid. These included a tough stance against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and a schedule for deporting millions of refugees, including nearly 3.7 million Syrians.

Meanwhile, Erdogan said in an interview with CNN International that he would not yield to such demands.

“I’m not the type of person who likes to negotiate. People will be the kingmakers,” he said.

In a clear attempt to sway nationalist voters, Mr. Kilicdaroglu stepped up his tone last week, promising to return refugees and ban peace talks with the PKK if elected.