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    He Lost Turkey’s Presidential Election, but Could Swing the Runoff

    Seen by some as spoiler but by others as a kingmaker, Sinan Ogan, the far-right candidate who came in third in the vote, says he is being courted by the two finalists: the sitting president and his challenger.ANKARA — As Sinan Ogan tells it, he has suddenly become the most sought-after man in Turkey.The hard-right nationalist and third-place finisher in presidential elections last weekend, Mr. Ogan told The New York Times that he has been fielding calls all week, from cabinet members to opposition leaders and even the office of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They all want the same thing — help wooing his critical swing voters one way or the other in the May 28 runoff between the two front-runners.“Very busy,” Mr. Ogan said at his office in the capital, Ankara, on Tuesday afternoon. “I spent my last three or four days negotiating issues with such high-level people.”Mr. Ogan and other hard-right nationalists made a strong showing in Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections, prioritizing national security and the defense of what they consider Turkish identity. In particular, they advocate tough stances on the more than 3.3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.Since the vote, Mr. Ogan’s has been called everything from a spoiler, who blocked the top presidential contenders from an outright victory, to a kingmaker whose supporters may play a role in deciding the runoff. That has given him a sudden clout, evidenced by the flood of calls he says he has received this week.The strong performance of nationalists in these elections will likely pull Turkish government policy further to the right in the years to come, particularly with regards to the country’s Kurdish minority and Syrian refugees.People walking past a banner of Sinan Ogan, who came in third in presidential elections over the weekend, in Istanbul, Turkey on Thursday.Khalil Hamra/Associated PressIn the vote on May 14, Mr. Erdogan won 49.5 percent while his main challenger, the opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, took about 44.8 percent. Mr. Ogan won a surprising 5.2 percent.With his comfortable lead in the first round, Mr. Erdogan now looks poised to win the runoff, especially if a good number of Mr. Ogan’s voters throw their support to him. Analysts said they expected more of those voters to choose Mr. Erdogan than his challenger.Mr. Ogan, 55, is a former parliament member and expert on the Caucasus who speaks Russian and earned a doctorate in politics and international relations from a Moscow university.He said he expects to announce his endorsement around Thursday, and assumes that 70 percent of his supporters would follow his recommendation. But political analysts are less sure, noting that Mr. Ogan lacks a powerful party apparatus to corral voters. And many of his supporters may have chosen him to protest the top contenders, and could skip the runoff.Mr. Ogan said he has demands in exchange for throwing his support to a candidate, all of them aimed at promoting nationalist causes. For one, he wants a scheduled plan to deport the refugees from many countries, including Syria and Afghanistan. And in exchange for endorsing a candidate, he also wants a very senior post in the new administration to see his demands through.“Why would I be a minister when I can be vice president?” he said.He declined to say whether he was leaning toward a particular candidate.He said he admired Mr. Erdogan’s work ethic, but also criticized him for not consulting enough with others before making decisions. Mr. Kilicdarolu, he said, was not as hard working but widely solicited others’ opinions.The opposition camp, overlapping with the far right on some issues, including the desire to send the Syrian refugees home, could step up efforts to sway nationalist voters before the runoff.Idris Sahin, an official with DEVA, one of the opposition parties backing Mr. Kilicdaroglu, said his party had done a “sociological study” of Mr. Ogan’s voters and would soon launch a campaign targeting them.On Wednesday, Mr. Kilicdaroglu released a campaign video attacking Mr. Erdogan and his party with harsh nationalist rhetoric.“The border is honor,” Mr. Kilicdaroglu said, referring to the president’s allowing millions of refugees from Syria and elsewhere to settle in Turkey. He called the refugees an “unruly flood of people flowing into our veins every day” and warned that their number would increase and “threaten our survival!”Mr. Ogan would not answer directly when asked whether he had spoken with Mr. Erdogan about a possible endorsement. Officials from Mr. Erdogan’s party and the opposition have not spoken publicly about any negotiations with Mr. Ogan.“I talk to everyone,” he said.Among Mr. Ogan’s other demands, he said he doesn’t want any political party that he considers connected to terrorism — a term the government often uses to refer to Kurdish militants — to have any role in the government.He mentioned two parties specifically: the Free Cause Party, a hard-line Islamist party allied with Mr. Erdogan, and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or H.D.P., which supported Mr. Kilicdaroglu.The first grew out of an underground Islamist organization known for murdering journalists, intellectuals and others in previous decades. The party’s current leaders say they reject violence.Turkey has fought a yearslong and deadly battle against Kurdish militants and the government often accuses the H.D.P. of cooperation with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Turkey, the United States and the European Union all consider a terrorist organization. H.D.P. leaders deny that accusation and say they condemn violence.Mr. Ogan credited his campaign with elevating nationalist causes during the election and hard-right factions also fared well in parliamentary elections. In particular, Mr. Erdogan’s strongest allies in Parliament, the Nationalist Movement Party, performed better than expected.“We blew a very nationalist wind into the field,” Mr. Ogan said.But analysts said it was more likely that such sentiments were already rising among the electorate and Mr. Ogan just happened to catch the wave.Gulsin Harman More

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    Turkey’s Opposition Struggles to Make Up Ground as Runoff Nears

    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks likely to take most of the votes that went to an ultranationalist candidate eliminated in the first round.After heading into elections with high hopes, Turkey’s political opposition is struggling to fight off despair and plot a course to give their candidate a fighting chance against the incumbent, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a runoff later this month.While Mr. Erdogan, bidding for a third five-year presidential term, failed to win a simple majority in Sunday’s election, he still led the opposition by a margin of about five percentage points. That, and a number of other indications, point to a win for the president in the second round on May 28.Importantly, Mr. Erdogan looks likely to be the primary beneficiary of votes from supporters of an ultranationalist third candidate, Sinan Ogan, who has been eliminated despite a surprisingly strong showing over the weekend. The first-round results pointed to growing nationalist sentiment across the electorate that will probably boost the president.All of that amounts to an uphill battle for the challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who heads a six-party coalition that came together with the goals of unseating Mr. Erdogan, restoring Turkish democracy, righting the economy and smoothing over frazzled relations with the West.“Obviously, it is difficult,” said Can Selcuki, the director of the Turkey Report, which publishes polls and political analysis.Sinan Ogan, an ultranationalist candidate, in Ankara this month. Despite being eliminated after Sunday’s vote, he made a surprisingly strong showing.Burhan Ozbilici/Associated PressMr. Selcuki, who had predicted a stronger showing by the opposition, said that the coalition now appeared to have at least two options: find a way to increase turnout among supportive voters and adopt a more nationalist tone that might attract crossover votes.So far, opposition leaders have publicly said very little about how they might modify their campaign before the runoff.“I am here, I am here,” Mr. Kilicdaroglu, the opposition candidate, said in a video posted on Twitter on Monday that showed him uncharacteristically banging on a desk. “I swear I will fight to the end.”In another post on Tuesday, he tried to rally younger voters, cautioning that a win by his opponent would lead to “a bottomless darkness.”Still, the math does not appear to be in his favor.Mr. Erdogan won 49.5 percent of the vote, versus 44.9 percent for Mr. Kilicdaroglu, according to the Turkish electoral authority. The third candidate, Mr. Ogan, received 5.2 percent, and his right-wing supporters seem more likely to opt for Mr. Erdogan in the runoff.Going into the first round, most polls indicated a slight lead for Mr. Kilicdaroglu, but since the results came out, analysts have tried to explain why the opposition performed worse than expected.The six parties that backed Mr. Kilicdaroglu represent a disparate range of backgrounds and ideologies, including nationalists, staunch secularists and even Islamists who had defected from Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party.While their primary unifying goal was to unseat Mr. Erdogan, they tried to sell voters on a different vision for Turkey’s future. That included restoring the independence of state institutions such as the Foreign Ministry and the central bank; a return to orthodox financial policies aimed at taming painfully high inflation and enticing foreign investors; and the strengthening of civil liberties, including freedom of expression and of association, which Mr. Erdogan has limited.President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won 49.5 percent of the vote versus 44.9 percent for Mr. Kilicdaroglu, according to the Turkish electoral authority.Sergey Ponomarev for The New York TimesMr. Erdogan mounted a campaign that linked him in voters’ minds to Turkey’s increasing military might and independence. In interviews, many pro-Erdogan voters expressed admiration for Turkey’s defense industry, particularly its drones, which have played key roles in a number of conflicts, including in Ukraine and in Ethiopia.He also demonized the opposition, associating them with terrorism. This line of attack capitalized on the support that Mr. Kilicdaroglu has received from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party, the country’s third-largest. The government has accused that party’s officials and members of cooperation with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., which it has designated a terrorist organization.At campaign rallies, Mr. Erdogan even showed a video that had been manipulated to make it look as if a P.K.K. leader was clapping along with one of Mr. Kilicdaroglu’s campaign songs.Turkey has fought a long and deadly battle against Kurdish militants, and the government often accuses Kurdish politicians of cooperating with them. Many Kurdish politicians have been jailed, prosecuted or removed from office because of such allegations.The overall results of Sunday’s vote, including for the Turkish Parliament, amounted to a strong showing by right-wing nationalists. The Nationalist Movement Party, Mr. Erdogan’s strongest ally in Parliament, increased its share, and Mr. Ogan did much better than polls had predicted.Those candidates emphasize Turkish identity and national security, demonize the Kurds and call for the more than three million Syrian refugees in Turkey to be sent home. All appear to have benefited from Mr. Erdogan’s warnings about terrorism.In the runoff on May 28, Mr. Erdogan looks likely to be the primary beneficiary of votes from supporters of Mr. Ogan.Sergey Ponomarev for The New York TimesAt the same time, some of the smaller parties that Mr. Kilicdaroglu brought into his coalition failed to mobilize significant numbers of voters.In his message aimed at Turkey’s younger voters on Tuesday, Mr. Kilicdaroglu returned to the state of the country’s economy, focusing on how inflation, which exceeded 80 percent last year, had eroded the value of people’s incomes.“You don’t have money for anything. You have to do calculations for a cup of coffee,” he wrote. “Yet youth means being carefree. They didn’t allow you to have that for even a day.”He also returned to the opposition’s central theme, the effort to remove Mr. Erdogan and reverse his tilt toward authoritarian rule.“Those who want change in this country are more than those who don’t want it,” he wrote. “But this is clear: we are the side that needs to fight harder to get rid of such a tyrant government.” More