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Turks Divided by Promise of Erdogan Election Victory

Millions of Turks have voted today in presidential elections. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, The governing party’s candidate, must secure more than 50 percent of the vote to beat Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the former head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, who is backed by several opposition parties, and Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the country’s pro-Kurdish party. The following is a sampling of voters in Ankara and Istanbul.

Fatma Ural, 34, housewife, Ankara:

“Just as the sun came out today after a few days of rain, that’s the way our new leader Erdogan will dawn over the country’s horizon. The things he’s already achieved are the guarantee of his future action, and with the performance he’ll put in from the presidential palace, our country’s going to progress to the next level.”

Aydin Durna, 43, waiter, Istanbul:

“I’m voting for Ekmeleddin. I can’t say I’m doing it willingly - it’s an anti-Erdogan vote. I’m worried about where he’s taking the country: my fears are for the future of Turkey as the secular democracy we’ve always known it as. He behaves like a dictator. Concentrating that much power in a single role isn’t healthy - no MP or even local mayor dares take decisions independently of him, which just shouldn’t happen in a democracy. I think we’re in for a couple of bumpy years.”

Ali Turan, 24, lighting shop employee, Istanbul:

“Erdogan is a candidate that’s excelled himself. Until Erdogan came along we didn’t have a proper defense industry. While we hosted other nations’ fighter jets, where were our own? He’s built a metro-system and a tunnel under the Bosphorus that has been planned for Istanbul since Ottoman times. Of course no candidate’s perfect - only prophets are perfect and if you’re hoping for a candidate without flaws you’re deluding yourself.”

Ayse Iklim, 21, university student, Ankara:

“Because of my age I’m not so sure about earlier periods but I do feel as though this government’s been given a fair run. Now’s the time for change. When you look at his professional experience and his scientific character, Ihsanoglu’s not at all a bad candidate. I believe that Ihsanoglu’s intellectual background and his analytical approach can create as many opportunities for us young people with anxiety for the future as for the country as a whole.”

Gurbey Ethemoglu, 26, shopworker, Istanbul:

“None of the candidates really speak to me so I’m not going to vote. Erdogan’s achievements in office are undeniable but I’m looking at this from a nationalist perspective - I don’t like the concessions he’s given to the Kurds.”

Ahmet Obuz, 27, municipality worker, Ankara:

“Our Prime Minister has been subject to all sorts of conspiracies, but he’s overcome them. At the moment internal and external powers are trying to get rid of him but they’re not going to get away with it. Hopefully our Prime Minister will become the president in the first round by a big margin of votes so that an administration that understands the importance of providing bread and jobs will continue to represent us from our most supreme office in Cankaya, the presidential palace.”

Ali Gormez, 34, private sector worker, Ankara - from the Alevi religious minority:

“There are no words left to describe this Prime Minister. But what can I say about the religiously-inclined Ekmeleddin who is supposed to be standing against him. None of the candidates’ characteristics appeal to us. That’s why I’ve come to spoil my ballot. I can’t think of another course of action. I think turnout could be low.”

Ferit Katipoglu, 26, filmmaker, Istanbul:

“I guess I’ll vote for Ekmeleddin as the most likely second candidate, but I like Demirtas, I think his TV appearance on TRT was witty and it’s good to have a young candidate in the running. But this election is super-pointless. Whoever I vote for it’s really not going to matter. In fact I almost feel like I should vote for Erdogan so that at least I can share in the excitement of winning.”

Suleyman Bakac, 62, retired, drives a cab, Ankara:

“Turkey has never seen this divisive a candidate. The government has divided people for its own ends and in order to cover up its own peccadilloes. It’s got to the stage where everyone approaches their fellow man with vengeance and suspicion. My vote’s for Ekmeleddin, in the name of unity and togetherness and so that this situation might resolve. That’s the only way we can purge ourselves of this collective discrimination.”

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