GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 691, 5 June 2023

Turkey's Election: Erdogan's reign to continue
Nityashree RB

What happened?
On 28 May, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the second round of elections securing 52.16 per cent. The opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu secured 47.84 per cent. Erdogan will be ruling Turkey for the third decade. Following his victory, Erdogan said: “I thank our nation, which gave us the responsibility of governing again for the next five years.” 

On 28 May, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Erdogan over a call. He said: “The election victory was a natural result of your selfless work as the head of the Republic of Turkey, clear evidence of the support of the Turkish people for your efforts to strengthen state sovereignty and conduct an independent foreign policy.”
On 28 May, US President Joe Biden tweeted, “I look forward to continuing to work together as NATO Allies on bilateral issues and shared global challenges.”

On 28 May, EU Council President Charles Michel tweeted, “France and Turkey have huge challenges to face together. Return of peace to Europe, future of our Euro-Atlantic Alliance, Mediterranean Sea. With President Erdogan, whom I congratulate on his re-election, we will continue to move forward.”

What is the background?
First, elections were free but unfair. The incumbency provided Erodgan control over 90 per cent of the media. According to BBC News, Erdogan was featured in Media for 32 hours and 42 minutes while the opposition party, Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu got only 32 minutes in April. Erdogan accused Kilicdaroglu of colluding with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). At the height of the campaigning, Muharrem Ince withdrew from the elections as a purported sex tape emerged in the media. He accused AKP of tarnishing his reputation by releasing a deepfake video. Throughout the campaigning AKP and the media undermined the opposition which turned out to be advantageous for Erdogan.

Second, background to the second round of elections. On 11 May, Homeland Party’s presidential candidate Muharrem Ince withdrew from the elections. On 14 May, the first round of presidential elections in Turkey concluded. Erdogan secured 49.5 per cent and Kilicdaroglu secured 44.9 per cent. On the same day in the parliamentary elections, the Erdogan-led Justice and Development Party (AKP) party won 267 seats out of 600 in the parliament. The Kilicdaroglu-led opposition party, Republican People’s Party (CHP) won 169 seats in the first round of elections. As no party secured more than 50 per cent, on 16 May the supreme election council announced that the top two contenders will go for a second round of election. On 22 May, the third-place contender in Turkey’s first round of presidential elections, Sinan Ogan, an independent candidate endorsed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. On 24 May, Victory Party leader Umit Ozdag endorsed the opposition, Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu. 

Third, Erdogan’s unexpected win. The pro-democracy Kilicdaroglu was expected to win especially by the West as Erdogan’s two-decade leadership was undemocratic. Because for Erdogan, the constitutional referendum of 2017 gave him unilateral decision-making powers as his party has always been the majority in the parliament except for a brief period in 2015. Freedom of the Press and speech is decreasing while the detainment of journalists is prevalent. Despite the economic crisis and tragic losses of lives and infrastructure during the earthquakes, voters preferred Erdogan in both rounds of elections. With the unexpected endorsement from Ogan, support for Erdogan increased.   

What does it mean?
Under Erdogan, Turkey has forged a path for itself. Turkey’s role as a regional and international player is growing. For the region, Erdogan’s stance against the Kurds, being a hotspot for refugees, his interest in leading the Muslim coalition and reconciliations with countries in the neighbourhood will continue to surge. 

Turkey, which was once seen as a sick man of Europe, now holds the key to the Euro-Atlantic integration. For the West, Erdogan’s win is likely to stall Sweden’s accession to NATO. Ankara’s role as a mediator in the Black Sea Grain deal and good relations with both Russia and Ukraine qualifies it as a possible mediator in the Ukrainian War itself. Although Erdogan’s win was not preferred by the West, through his assertive foreign policies he proved himself as an ally of both the West and the East.

For Turkey, Erdogan’s short-sighted economic reforms have led to the fall of Lira. Unless there is a change in economic policies, with the devastation of the earthquake, the economic crisis is likely to exacerbate. The elections have indicated three things. First, the growing need for democracy and democratic institutions among people. Second, despite Erdogan’s authoritative leadership, and decreasing vote share compared to the 2018 election, he won. Third, the major influence of incumbency in Erdogan’s win.


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