Home » Erdogan cements his power with a victory in Turkey’s presidential runoff election

Erdogan cements his power with a victory in Turkey’s presidential runoff election

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Erdogan cements his power with a victory in Turkey's presidential runoff election image

The president of Turkey Tayyip Erdogan places his vote in the second round of the presidential election On sunday.

Turkey’s Istanbul The most difficult test of his political career, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a historic runoff election.

The victory solidifies his third term in office and denotes the persistence of his one-man executive control despite growing Turkish discontent over his unconventional economic policies, inadequate reaction to a deadly earthquake, and dwindling democratic liberties.

Erdogan earned 52.14% of the vote while Kemal Kilicdaroglu received 47.86% of the vote according to Ahmet Yener the president of Turkey’s Supreme Election Council.

The first round of voting two weeks ago produced no unambiguous victor for the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic. But Erdogan prevailed over Kilicdaroglu by 4.5 percentage points, giving him the advantage ahead of the vote on Sunday.

The two guys presented radically different outlooks on Turkey and its future. Erdogan, 69, ran a controversial campaign in which he painted himself as the figurehead who would make Turkey a world power, pushed his signature religious nationalism, and accused his rival of having ties to terrorist organizations and acting as a puppet for Western countries.

Supporters of the President Tayyip Erdogan gather outside the Presidential Palace in Ankara Turkey on Sunday. Erdogan declared victory in his country’s runoff election extending his rule into a third decade.

Erdogan’s supporters see him as a modernizer, who has elevated Turkey’s presence on the global stage and advanced the country’s infrastructure and military capability, while empowering religious Turks who were repressed when secular leaders were in power decades ago. His critics see him as an autocrat who has allowed government corruption to flourish, leading to shoddy, unregulated construction that made a devastating earthquake in February even deadlier when hundreds of thousands of buildings collapsed, killing more than 50,000 people.

Kilicdaroglu, 74, was backed by a coalition of parties ranging from secularists, Islamists and nationalists, and put up the strongest opposition Erdogan and his ruling party have seen in years. He promised to restore Turkey’s governing system back to the original parliamentary democracy, instead of the executive presidency it became after a constitutional referendum in 2017.

Kilicdaroglu also promised to end corruption, fix the economy, and bring back independence to the judiciary. But Kilicdaroglu also ran on nationalist and anti-immigrant rhetoric. He made a point of outlining his promises to control Turkey’s borders and repatriate the almost 4 million Syrians who fled their country’s civil turmoil to Turkey.

Turnout was down

In the end, turnout appeared lower on Sunday than the first round which saw a high turnout of nearly 89%. The opposition, which had high expectations that it could beat Erdogan in the first round, suffered a huge morale loss and was unable to fully recover in the two weeks since.

Despite nearly half of the Turkish population’s feelings of fatigue over Erdogan’s long tenure in power and a crippled economy with an unstable currency and rising living costs Kilicdaroglu struggled to convince voters who were on the fence that he would do a better job than Erdogan according to Vahap Coskun a political scientist and professor of law at Dicle University in Diyarbakir Turkey.

The President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Supporters celebrate in Istanbul on Sunday.

Kilicdaroglu’s party has some unresolved historic baggage with many voters and he struggled with presenting himself as an alternative to Erdogan who’s seen as a much more charismatic leader, Coskun said.

But the race was also seen as far from fair. Erdogan has near total control of Turkey’s broadcast media. And while he made frequent and lengthy appearances on TV Kilicdaroglu had to make do with social media and YouTube to get his message across. Erdogan also took advantage of government resources to hand out benefits to millions of citizens and raised the minimum wage several times in the last year.

The result carries implications for the U.S.

An Erdogan win has implications beyond Turkey, which is a regional powerhouse, a NATO member, and a strategic yet frustrating ally to the United States. Turkey under Erdogan has maintained close ties with Russia and refused to participate in Western sanctions and held up the expansion of NATO by refusing to ratify Sweden’s membership so far. He’s also expanded the Turkish military’s reach into Northern Syria and brokered a deal with the United Nations, between Ukraine and Russia, to allow Ukrainian grain exports through Russian blockade.

Over the course of Erdogan’s remaining five years in office experts told NPR that they anticipate more of the same behavior from him.

There’s absolutely no reason to think that Erdogan would reverse course or soften his approach said political analyst Selim Koru both on domestic issues and international affairs.

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