Turkey’s runoff election on Sunday saw President Tayyip Erdogan defeat opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, extending Erdogan’s leadership into a third decade after he had already been in power for two.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan secured victory in the presidential run-off and has been re-elected as Turkish president, according to the head of Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK).
With 99.43% of the votes tabulated, YSK Chairman Ahmet Yener announced preliminary official results showing that Erdogan won the runoff with 52.14 percent of the vote. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Erdogan’s opponent, has received 47.86% of the vote.
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The first round of voting in the history of the Turkish Republic failed to produce a clear victor two weeks ago. However, Erdogan led Kilicdaroglu by 4.5 percentage points, giving him an advantage before Sunday’s election. Erdogan’s victory extends his reign as the nation’s longest-serving leader since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded modern Turkey from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire a century ago – a politically significant anniversary to be observed in October with Erdogan in power.
Erdogan calls the victory “Turkey’s winning”
The victory solidifies Erdogan’s third term in power and demonstrates the durability of his one-man executive rule, despite escalating complaints against him in Turkey, such as his unorthodox economic policies, inadequate response to a devastating earthquake, and dwindling democratic freedoms.
Speaking to thousands of his supporters outside the presidential complex in Ankara, Erdogan said that now was the time to “put aside all the debates and conflicts regarding the election period and unite around our national goals and dreams.”
“We are not the only winners; the winner is Turkey. The winner is all parts of our society, our democracy is the winner,” Erdogan said.
In his victory speech, he once more labeled the opposition as pro-LGBT.
Kilicdaroglu says “most unfair election”
Kilicdaroglu stated at his party’s headquarters in the Turkish capital of Ankara that he will continue to fight until there is “real democracy” in Turkey.
“This was the most unfair election period in our history… We did not bow down to the climate of fear,” he said. “In this election, the will of the people to change an authoritarian government became clear despite all the pressures,” Kilicdaroglu added.
Erdogan’s victory’s aftermath-
A divided nation with Erdogan’s victory
The victory of Erdogan over Kilicdaroglu, a 74-year-old bureaucrat and leader of the left-leaning CHP, has left Turkey profoundly divided. The two men had drastically divergent perspectives on Turkey and its future. Erdogan, 69, led a divisive campaign in which he presented himself as the leader who would make Turkey a global power, utilizing his signature religious nationalist discourse, and accusing his opponent of having ties to terrorists and being a pawn of Western nations.
Asli Aydintasbas, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, remarked, “We are once again looking at a divided country… both camps have entirely different goals for Turkey.”
Erdogan’s supporters view him as a modernizer who has raised Turkey’s profile on the international stage and improved the country’s infrastructure and military strength, while empowering religious Turks who were repressed by secular leaders decades ago.
His critics view him as an autocrat who has allowed government corruption to proliferate, resulting in shoddy, unregulated construction that made the February earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people even deadlier by causing the collapse of hundreds of thousands of buildings.
Even though the country is experiencing record high inflation and the lira has hit a record low against the dollar, economics was not on the minds of Erdogan’s supporters. Instead, they spoke of their delight in his powerful position in the world and his tough stance against “terrorists,” which they defined as Kurdish militants.
Challenges acknowledged by Erdogan
Erdogan, the leader of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, appealed to voters with nationalist and conservative discourse during a divisive campaign designed to divert attention from the country’s severe economic difficulties. Erdogan stated that the government’s top priorities would include combating inflation and healing the fractures caused by the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and neighboring Syria on February 6 and claimed over 50,000 lives.
The question is whether he is willing to take the necessary steps to accomplish this. At a rate of nearly 44% per year, inflation seeps into everyone’s existence. Due to Mr. Erdogan’s refusal to stick to orthodox economic policy and raise interest rates, the price of food, rent, and other essentials has skyrocketed. Moreover, Erdogan’s victory in Turkey’s presidential election has led to the lira slipping towards a fresh record low against the dollar. The currency has weakened over 6% since the start of the year and lost over 90% of its value in the past decade due to economic turmoil, inflation, and a currency crisis.
The authorities have intervened in foreign exchange markets to stabilize the lira, but with limited reserves and negative real interest rates, the pressure on the currency remains high. Despite economic concerns and criticism of unorthodox economic policies, Erdogan’s strong showing in the election suggests limited changes in economic policy going forward.
Profile of Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Erdogan was born in February 1954 and grew up on the Black Sea coast of Turkey until the age of 13, when his family relocated to Istanbul. According to his biographers, he sold bread rolls and lemonade to help fund his education at an Islamic school. Later, he played semi-professional football and received a degree in administration from Marmara University in Istanbul.
From mayor to prime minister to third term president:
From 1994 to 1998, Erdogan served as mayor of Istanbul until he was imprisoned for reciting a controversial poem at a rally. After his release from prison, Erdogan created a new political party, the AKP, and in 2003 he was appointed prime minister. He served three terms, the first of which was during a period of economic expansion fueled by international trade and investment, before the tide began to turn against him.
Erdogan won the first direct presidential election in Turkey in 2014. He pledged to increase the president’s authority and assured supporters a “period of social reconciliation.” However, in 2016, a portion of the military attempted a coup. The unsuccessful coup resulted in Erodgan using emergency powers to repress dissent even more severely and increase his power.
President Erdogan’s desire for expanded presidential powers was realized in April 2017 by constitutional amendments that centralized executive authority in the presidency. Following a referendum, these modifications were scheduled to go into effect following the November 2019 elections. Nonetheless, early elections were convened, and Erdogan won a majority of the vote in June 2018, assuming the expanded presidential powers in July of that year.
However, his economic policies, combined with US tariffs and a foreign conspiracy claim, led to a recession in Turkey, with price increases becoming a central issue in March 2019 municipal elections. Several members of the AKP opposed Erdoan’s leadership, and the party sustained losses in major cities. Erdoan faced criticism in 2020 and 2021 for repressing dissent, interfering with monetary policy, and threatening academic freedom.
Now, Erdogan has extended his reign beyond 20 years after Sunday’s victory in Turkish presidential election.