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Turkey’s third-place finisher endorses Erdoğan in runoff election

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday secured the endorsement of an ultra-nationalist whose third-place finish helped force Turkey’s first election runoff, Agence France-Presse reported.

Sinan Oğan’s 5.2 percent of the vote in the May 14 general election helped deprive Erdoğan of an outright victory for the first time in his 20-year rule.

He met with the Turkish leader on Friday and held separate negotiations with allies of opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

“We will support the People’s Alliance candidate, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in the runoff election on May 28,” he told reporters in nationally televised remarks.

Oğan portrays himself as an ardent supporter of a brand of Turkish nationalism espoused by the post-Ottoman republic’s creator Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

He has demanded the immediate expulsion of millions of migrants and sought a firm stance against “terrorists” — a code word for Kurdish groups fighting for broader autonomy in Turkey’s southeast.

The 54-year-old also tried to stop the opposition from discussing constitutional changes that could dilute language stressing the importance of Turkishness at the expense of other ethnicities.

Analysts question how much weight Oğan’s endorsement carries with his voters.

His tiny party has only been around for a few months, and most of his support appears to be people disaffected with both Erdoğan and his 74-year-old rival.

But it undermines Kılıçdaroğlu’s urgent efforts to expand his appeal among more nationalist voters in the runup to the second round.

Kılıçdaroğlu struck a decidedly more nationalist tone in his first post-election appearance last week.

The former civil servant pledged to send “all the refugees home” when he comes to power and accused Erdoğan of failing to “protect the borders and honor of our country.”

Erdoğan had signaled that he did not intend to make any concession to Oğan to secure his support.

The Turkish leader would be able to extend his rule one last time until 2028 by picking up just a sliver of Oğan’s voters.

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