Erdogan Wins Turkey’s Presidential Election: What It Means for the Country and the World
In Sunday's runoff vote, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emerged victorious in Turkey's presidential election, beating his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu and extending his reign to a third decade. Erdogan is now set to become Turkey’s long-serving leader, and his reelection will have profound implications for Turkey — and the rest of the world. Erdogan has tried to exert Turkish power in the region and beyond, pursuing a nonaligned and assertive foreign policy. His belief is centered on the idea of a world with multiple poles, where Turkey is considered as one of the significant powers. He has reoriented Ankara away from — but not completely abandoned — the West, using his leverage to balance Turkey’s relationships, but also to play competitors off each other in ways that benefit Turkey’s (and Erdogan’s own) interests.
Having been in power for over two decades, Erdogan is expected to win another five-year term after narrowly missing out on victory in the initial elections held on May 14. Erdogan has previously dismissed calls for comprehensive deportation, but he has promised to return some one million Syrian refugees to their homeland after implementing housing projects in Turkey-controlled northern Syria, without giving a specific timeline. Erdogan told CNN earlier this month that he would “encourage” around a million refugees to return to Syria. Erdogan pledged to provide a new home for one million Syrian refugees who had left their country as a result of the war.
During the initial voting round held on May 14, Erdogan managed to gain a lead of almost five points over Kilicdaroglu. However, he failed to reach the 50% threshold required for victory. Erdogan entered the second round in the lead, after a first round race where he received 49.5% of the overall vote compared with Kılıçdaroğlu’s 44.5%, while his AKP along with their nationalist coalition partners won a majority in parliament. Preliminary official results declared by Turkey's Supreme Election Council (YSK) on Sunday, after counting 99.43% of the votes, revealed that Erdogan secured a victory with 52.14% of the votes. 47.86% was received by Kilicdaroglu.
Erdogan’s belief in a multipolar world means he doesn’t quite buy into the Western-led order. Turkey is a longstanding NATO member, but Erdogan has tried to forge a more independent foreign policy, one that weens Ankara off its Washington dependence. In doing so, Erdogan tapped into an anti-Westernism in Turkish society and supercharged it. Turkey, which has the second-largest army in NATO, has been bolstering its relations with Russia over the past few years. The burgeoning camaraderie between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin has caused concern among Western nations, particularly in light of Moscow's ongoing aggression in Ukraine.
Erdogan will have to deal with crises, even as he seeks to assert Turkey’s influence around the world. The commotion in his household may either compel him to restrain his aspirations or drive him to pursue triumph outside his home, evading the issues he is unable or unwilling to resolve domestically. By injecting money into the economy prior to the elections, he did not help prevent the imminent collapse of the economy. This implies actual suffering for regular Turkish citizens, including those who voted for him again. Erdogan’s weak economic stance may give the US and Europe — a key trading partner — a little bit more leverage over him, too.
According to analysts, Turkey may not necessarily undergo a foreign policy reversal even if Erdogan is removed from power through elections. Although some sources within the opposition have suggested that a victory in the elections would result in Turkey shifting back towards the West, there are those who believe that fundamental foreign policy matters will probably stay the same. Turkey remains deeply divided following Erdogan's win over Kilicdaroglu, the 74-year-old bureaucrat and left-leaning CHP leader.
0. “Erdogan wins Turkish election, extending rule to third decade” CNN, 29 May. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/28/europe/turkey-president-runoff-polls-erdogan-intl/index.html
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2. “Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wins Turkish presidential election” The Guardian, 28 May. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/may/28/polls-close-in-second-round-of-the-turkish-presidential-election
3. “Turkey is heading for a run-off presidential vote. Here’s all you need to know” CNN, 27 May. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/27/middleeast/turkey-election-run-off-vote-explainer/index.html