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Turkey’s third candidate open to endorsement talks

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A little-known nationalist who helped push Turkey’s election to a runoff told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday he could throw his support behind either President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or his secular rival.

Entering the campaign at the last minute, Sinan Oğan, 55, won 5.2 percent of the vote in Sunday’s landmark election, helping deprive Erdoğan of a first-round victory for the first time in his 20-year rule.

Erdoğan finished with 49.5 percent while Kılıçdaroğlu secured 44.9 percent, a disappointing finish after polls suggested the opposition leader could win.

In an interview with AFP, Oğan said he had expected to do even better, voicing hope that he could be elected president one day.

“I expected even more — around 10 to 11 percent of the vote,” said Oğan, a secular nationalist who was expelled from a far-right party that has since joined Erdoğan’s ruling alliance in parliament.

Running as an independent, Oğan said he was open to dialogue but may take a few days to make up his mind about who — if anyone — to endorse.

“A decision will be made after talks with both Mr. Erdoğan and Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu,” he said.

“We may say we don’t support either of them.”

A Turkish official told AFP that Erdoğan’s Islamic-rooted party would soon make a statement about possible talks with Oğan.

‘No room for resentment’

Oğan, who spoke English and studied at a top Moscow university, said his voters included “Turkish nationalists as well as young people who find us more intellectual and who are fed up with the old faces in politics.”

Matt Gertken, chief political strategist at BCA Research, suggested that Oğan mostly took votes away from Erdoğan, whose base comprises nationalists and religious conservatives.

“In the second round, Erdoğan will not necessarily win the majority of Oğan’s votes, but only one-fifth of those votes would grant him the presidency, other things being equal,” Gertken said.

Oğan entered parliament as a member of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in 2011.

He fell out with the party’s leadership after criticizing the MHP’s poor performance in the 2015 elections.

Oğan was expelled from the party but then readmitted after winning a court battle.

Two years later, he was expelled again for opposing a 2017 constitutional referendum that expanded Erdogan’s presidential powers.

Renounce ‘terrorism’

Oğan came under pressure to drop out of the race after a fourth candidate, the nationalist Muharrem İnce, ended his campaign just four days before the election.

Asked if he was ready to make up with Erdoğan after feuding with his coalition allies, Oğan said, “There can be no room for resentment, if you aspire to rule the state.”

Oğan said anyone he supports must firmly renounce “terrorism” — the term Turkish politicians use to refer to banned Kurdish militants who have been fighting for greater autonomy.

He has reservations about Kılıçdaroğlu’s ties with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which endorsed the opposition leader’s candidacy last month.

But he also opposes Erdoğan’s alliance with Hüda-Par, a far-right political party with links to the Kurdish Hizbullah movement, which has no ties to the Lebanese Hezbollah.

“We want an approach taken against all kinds of terrorist organizations,” he said, urging political parties to “distance themselves from terror.”

The HDP is facing a possible court ban over its alleged ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Ankara and much of the international community.

“I am against any organization that does not distance itself from terrorism,” he said.

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