site.btaWhy Erdogan Won Again

Why Erdogan Won Again
Why Erdogan Won Again
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proved once again to be an "electorally unbeatable leader", winning the presidential election run-off on May 28 with 52.16% against 47.84% for his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu. This gave him a third term in office and made him Turkiye's 13th president.

Almost throughout the night, millions of Erdogan's supporters and sympathisers in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities of the country celebrated the victory with flags, songs, dances and exalted cheers in a sign of eternal support for the "strong man of Turkiye".

Erdogan, the country's new elder statesman, will rule Turkiye for the next five years, until 2028, making him the longest-serving president in Turkish history.

At the same time, this is the head of State's hardest-fought victory against the backdrop of the devastating earthquakes in February this year, which claimed the lives of more than 50,000 people, high inflation, an impoverished population, an outflow of foreign investors and other problems facing the country. For the first time in the country's history, a president was elected on a run-off. Very interesting in this sense is the headline today of the opposition's mouthpiece, the Cumhuriyet newspaper, which said "Erdogan wins by losing".

Yenicag, also an opposition newspaper, came out with the headline "The Charm of Democracy", referring to the high voter turnout (around 85%) - an indicator typical of Turkish society. Turks believe in the principle that elections are the most important instrument of democracy and their high turnout in elections is surprising to foreign observers.

Pro-government newspapers, meanwhile, note that Erdogan's new term "will carry Turkiye into its second century", touting the incumbent head of State's election victory as "a source of pride and satisfaction" and "a victory for all of Turkiye".

The Turkish republic, founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk on the principle of secularism (a secular state), will turn 100 years old this October and enter its second century with Erdogan at the helm.

Factors for victory

For the past 21 years, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has managed to consolidate his image as Turkiye's "strong man", both domestically and internationally.  In the words of one analyst, "he is a leader who is able to 'look both East and West' and has managed to balance his relations with the West (as a NATO ally), with Russia and with Ukraine, with the Turkic and Arab worlds, which brings him prestige in the eyes of the electorate, but also in the world.

Domestically, Erdogan managed to consolidate his voters this time too, taking advantage in the election campaign of their traditional fears related to Kurdish separatism and the terror of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Other themes that the incumbent head of State bet on in the race for office were the preservation of religious identity and the preservation of the cultural differences of Turkish society with the West. In the focus of his election strategy, Erdogan put emphasis on the factor of security, independence and the unity of a "strong Turkiye", capable of standing up to anyone who dares to divert it from its path. A strategy that has won him the battle against the opposition's accusations of high inflation, the rising cost of living, the impoverishment of the middle class, unemployment, the collapse of the Turkish lira and even the widespread discontent with the presence of millions of Syrian and other refugees.

Analysis of the results shows that this strategy of Erdogan has worked best in the Central Anatolian districts where the majority of the population is conservative.

"The truth is that no political force in Turkiye can win elections if it fails to attract this electorate, if it fails to take into account attitudes," said Bekir Agardar of the Konda polling agency, which last week accurately predicted the outcome of Sunday's run-off.    

Last but not least, if Erdogan wins the run-off, it is because the Turkish opposition failed to develop a sound strategy, to learn from the ruling party how to win elections.

Even though Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Erdogan's rival, bet on the economy in his election strategy, he failed to offer convincing programmes for getting out of the economic crisis, for attracting foreign investors.

The strongest argument the united opposition of six parties relied on was a return to the parliamentary system against those dissatisfied with the autocratic presidential system, but this failed to work. The differences between the parties in the opposition alliance - an alliance of left and right, Islamists and secularists, presenting a motley political picture - and not least the personality of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who was nominated as the presidential candidate, failed to win the confidence of the circles disaffected and disillusioned with Erdogan.

Thus, Kilicdaroglu has earned the image of a politician who has not won a single election so far. Immediately after the loss of the run-off, very loud voices were raised demanding his resignation.

At the same time, opposition circles are saying that they will not give up the fight against Erdogan and will continue it with new, more effective means.

In the context of Erdogan's election victory, it is worth noting the contribution of the nationalist Bahceli, the long-time leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Erdogan's party's rating in the May 14 parliamentary elections dropped by 7 points (compared to the previous elections), but he won the majority in parliament thanks to Bahceli's nationalists. The MHP, alone among all parties, increased its rating to 10%, although analysts predicted it would not break the 7% barrier.

What are the main directions in Erdogan's new mandate

In last night's first speech after being declared the winner of the run-off, which Erdogan delivered on a bus in front of a crowd gathered outside his Istanbul home, he pointed out that the first goal is local elections this autumn. Erdogan's cherished goal is to recapture the major metropolises of Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir from the opposition. Among them, the 16-million-strong Istanbul is the most important. "Whoever rules Istanbul rules Turkiye," Erdogan often says.

The analysis of the results of the run-off shows that the votes received for Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu in Istanbul are close (51.78% for Kilicdaroglu and 48.22% for Erdogan). This suggests that critical local elections are coming this fall.

Erdogan plans to hold a referendum on adopting a new constitution to give Turkiye a new vision. He is betting specifically on dealing with the aftermath of the earthquakes, increasing jobs especially for young people, reducing inflation and resolving economic problems in domestic politics.

Sources close to Erdogan claim that the President will renew the cabinet with new ministers or reshuffles, there is talk that there will be a change of foreign minister, that a new deputy prime minister is to be appointed, and that the central bank chairman will be replaced. The President is also expected to take up the Istanbul Canal project. The Emir of Qatar was the first to congratulate Erdogan even before the Supreme Election Council ruled on the election results. This is no coincidence, as it is Qatar that is the candidate to implement the massive artificial canal project through Istanbul, observers note.

Erdogan will also bet on continuing with new projects to develop the military-defense complex, the pride of the Turkish nation, insiders note.

In foreign policy terms, he is expected to continue the current course in Ankara's approach towards Russia and Ukraine with communication with both Vladimir Putin and Zelensky. He is also likely to make efforts to renew the contact with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which was broken off 11 years ago. 

At the same time, the result of the run-off showed a strong division in Turkish society.

The difference between Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu is nearly 3 million people in favour of the incumbent leader. Erdogan's critics say he will have a harder time in this term than he has had so far. Inflation, the collapse of the Turkish lira, high unemployment will squeeze him. With a number of electoral gestures, Erdogan has managed to quell discontent with the economic difficulties and turn the result in his favour. But the election is over and now people expect promises to be fulfilled and economic woes will increasingly squeeze Turks forced to tighten their belts, a number of analysts say.

In addition, the hot-button issue of migrants and refugees dominated the election race. Erdogan promised to return half a million Syrians to their homeland.

According to the leader of the anti-migrant Victory Party, Umit Ozdag, who rallied the votes of those dissatisfied with Erdogan's refugee policy and declared his support for Kilicdaroglu on the run-off, there are more than 13 million migrants in Turkiye. Ozdag called Erdogan's victory a "Pyrrhic victory" (BirGun newspaper ran the same headline). Ozdag promised to pursue a policy based on Ataturk's secularist principle, in which the return of refugees is central. In this sense, he can be expected to attract a larger fragment of the nationalist electorate dissatisfied with the migrant policy pursued by the current rulers.

Seventy per cent of Turks define themselves as nationalists, and they lean both to the right and the left of the political spectrum.

In conclusion, there are important developments ahead that will determine interest in Turkiye and its geostrategic role in the region, Europe and the world.

/DS/

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By 00:04 on 18.04.2024 Today`s news

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