By Orla Guerin
BBC News, Istanbul
After 2 decades successful powerfulness and much than a twelve elections, Turkey's authoritarian person Recep Tayyip Erdogan knows however to enactment a room. At a taxi drivers' normal successful Istanbul, they could not get capable of him.
He controlled the assemblage similar the conductor of an orchestra. They cheered and clapped - and booed the absorption - connected cue. The venue was a waterside normal centre successful Istanbul, built during his clip arsenic politician of the city.
The rally reached a crescendo arsenic the president delivered his parting shot: "One Nation, One Flag, One Motherland, One State." By then, galore aging drivers were connected their feet, punching the aerial oregon raising 1 limb successful a salute.
Ayse Ozdogan, a conservatively dressed pistillate successful a headscarf, had travel aboriginal with her taxi operator hubby to perceive her leader's each word. A crutch rested connected the spot adjacent to her. She struggles to locomotion but could not enactment away.
"Erdogan is everything to me," she said, with a wide smile. "We could not get to hospitals before, but present we tin get astir easily. We person transportation. We person everything. He has improved roads. He has built mosques. He has developed the state with high-speed trains and underground lines."
The president's nationalist connection appealed to galore successful the crowd, including Kadir Kavlioglu, aged 58, who has been driving a minibus for 40 years. "Since we emotion our homeland and our nation, we are walking steadily down the president."
"We are with him each measurement of the way," helium said, "whether the terms of potatoes and onions rises oregon falls. My beloved president is our hope."
When Turks went to the polls earlier this month, they were not voting with their wallets. Food prices are skyrocketing. Inflation is astatine a punishing 43%.
Yet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - who controls the system and overmuch other present - came retired successful beforehand with 49.5% of the vote. That confounded analysts and taught a acquisition present - beware sentiment polls.
A divided country
His rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the secular absorption leader, got 44.9%. So, the electorate successful this polarised state was divided - the 2 sides implacably opposed but conscionable 4% apart.
An ultra-nationalist candidate, Sinan Ogan, took an unexpected 5.2%, pushing the contention to a 2nd circular this Sunday. He has present endorsed President Erdogan.
Why person astir voters stuck with him contempt the economical crisis, and the government's dilatory effect to disastrous duplicate earthquakes successful February, which killed astatine slightest 50,000 people?
"I deliberation helium is the [ultimate] Teflon politician," says Professor Soli Ozel, who lectures successful planetary relations astatine Istanbul's Kadir Has University. "He besides has the communal touch. You can't contradict it. He exudes power. That's 1 happening that Kilicdaroglu does not."
Mr Kilicdaroglu, who is backed by a six-party absorption alliance, utilized to exude hope, and committedness state and democracy.
But aft his first-round disappointment, helium made a crisp close turn. Now determination is little of the caring gramps and much of the nationalist hardliner. "It is simply a contention to the bottom," according to 1 Turkish journalist.
"I americium announcing present that I volition nonstop each refugees backmost location erstwhile I americium elected President, period," said Mr Kilicdaroglu astatine a caller predetermination rally.
That includes much than 3 cardinal Syrians who fled warfare astatine home. It is simply a connection that goes down good successful Turkey.
Whoever is Turkey's adjacent president, nationalism is already a victor here. The voters person elected the astir nationalist and blimpish parliament ever, successful which Mr Erdogan's ruling AK (Justice and Development) Party conjugation has retained control.
For immoderate young voters it feels similar the dice has already been formed here. Sitting connected a reddish sofa beneath a rainbow flag, Zeynep, 21, and Mert, 23, service piping blistery Turkish beverage and interest astir the future.
Both survey science astatine Bogazici University, a respected spot of learning with a past of now-suppressed pupil protests. Their relationship began astatine the university's LGBTQ+ club, which has since been closed. Gay pridefulness parades person been banned starting from 2015.
During the predetermination campaign, the president has been targeting the community. "No LGBT radical travel retired of this nation," helium told a packed rally successful the metropolis of Izmir. "We bash not tarnish our household structure. Stand up consecutive similar a man, our families are similar that."
The assemblage is present astatine increasing risk, according to Mert, who has shoulder-length acheronian hairsbreadth and earrings.
"Erdogan himself, successful each speech, astatine each lawsuit helium holds, has started to represent america arsenic targets," helium said. "Day by day, the authorities is making an force retired of us."
A caller Turkish century
"What the authorities says has an interaction connected people. You spot it reflected successful those closest to you, adjacent successful your family. If this continues, past what next? We extremity up ever surviving connected alert, ever tense, ever successful fear," helium said.
Zeynep - who has acheronian eyes and expressive hands - is inactive hoping for a caller epoch but knows it whitethorn not come. "I americium 21 years aged and they person been present for 20 years," she said.
"I privation alteration and if I don't spot that I volition beryllium bittersweet and scared. They volition onslaught america more; they volition instrumentality our rights more. They volition prohibition galore much things, I think. But we volition inactive bash something, we volition inactive fight."
On Sunday, voters volition spell to the polls for the archetypal statesmanlike runoff successful their past with their state astatine a turning point.
It is astir 100 years since Turkey was founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk arsenic a secular republic.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is promising a caller "Turkish century" if helium is re-elected.
His supporters accidental helium volition present much improvement and a stronger Turkey. His critics accidental it volition beryllium little Ataturk, much Islamisation, and a darker future.