Erdogan: Five More Years in Power

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan snatched his third presidential term in the fight against the candidate of the united opposition – Kemal Kilicdaroglu. During the campaign, the AKP leader threatened “internal enemies”, showered state employees with money and promised to continue pumping the economy with cheap loans. Euphoria of Erdogan’s supporters on the streets of Istanbul, Ankara and other Turkish cities. The country’s incumbent leader won the historic second round presidential elections despite that this time the opposition put together a powerful coalition, and earthquakes in February and the economic crisis have brought expectation of a change of power. The gap between the candidates was about 4 percentage points, or about 2 million votes. The leader of the Islamic conservative AKP enlisted the support of the central regions of Anatolia, while his Kemalist rival Kılıçdaroğlu was expected to lead in the Kurdish east and along the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts. In Izmir, the oppositionist won 67% of the vote, in Istanbul and Ankara his results were more moderate, 52% and 51% respectively. Delivering the traditional balkon konuşması (balcony speech) to the gathering outside the presidential palace in Ankara, Erdoğan, who had waged a tough campaign based on disunity rhetoric, spoke out some conciliatory phrases: “The time has come to rally around our national goals and what makes us dream, leaving aside all the discussions and disputes associated with the election period.” The teflon president was congratulated by Western leaders, from Macron and Scholz to Biden and NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, who would not mind the victory of the Euro-Atlanticist Kilichdaroglu. Vladimir Putin conveyed his congratulations to his “dear friend”, and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has also been accepting Ankara’s mediation since the first days of the war, expressed hope for “development of cooperation in the interests of the European security and stability”. “I could not protect your rights,” the leader of the Republican People's Party, founded by Ataturk, addressed his supporters with these words. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who preached inclusiveness and tolerance, abruptly changed course after the first round. In the fight for nationalist votes, the secular republican escalated anti-migrant and populist rhetoric, in particular by promising the Turks to evict Syrians, forgive loans, and make national football league matches free-to-air. “Now I want to ask you to support the fight for democracy: do it for yourself, for your children, for our pensioners, for our mothers and fathers, for our farmers and entrepreneurs.” It remains to be seen whether the 74-year-old opposition leader will remain in office or hand over leadership of the party to another politician, such as the popular mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu. It is symbolic that the second round of the presidential race coincided with the tenth anniversary of the protests against the demolition of Gezi Park, when unrest engulfed many cities in the country. 69-year-old Erdogan, who received another 5 years of almost undivided power and a controlled parliament, now has to pull the country out of the economic abyss.