The decisive round of Turkey's presidential elections took place at a symbolic time - a decade after the start of the demonstrations in Istanbul's Taksim Square, which were the largest against Recep Tayyip Erdogan to date. Erdogan, then still prime minister in a parliamentary regime, survived the huge protests against his increasingly authoritarian rule and has since concentrated broad powers as president while surviving a coup attempt and a series of close election campaigns.
His opponents hoped that May 28, 2023, would be the day the circle would be closed and Turkey's most powerful leader since its founder, Kemal Mustafa Atatürk, ousted. But Erdogan once again beat forecasts and polls, with the considerable help of official media and state resources, and the opposition was bitterly disappointed when its leader was once again left behind, frustrated and complaining about the unfairness of the elections.
Erdogan, who received a mandate for another five years that would extend his rule for at least a quarter of a century, was based on a loyal audience pleased with the changing secular character of the Turkish republic. His voters were not convinced by the solutions proposed by the secular opposition, including its promise to take a more radical approach to the millions of Syrian refugees and others in the country.
Continuing for another term. Erdogan speaking to his supporters in Ankara tonight (Photo: Reuters)
Even residents of the provinces devastated by earthquakes earlier this year did not ultimately punish Erdogan and his government, who were accused of turning a blind eye to building irregularities that led to the rapid collapse of thousands of buildings. Their initial anger at the disaster was softened by government promises to rebuild the cities that had been reduced to rubble, and they did not abandon Erdogan.
And after cementing his position in the face of all challenges, comes the day after. Erdogan promised citizens stability and more of the same, which means continuing the economic crisis that has worsened in recent years in light of Erdogan's controversial monetary policy. The president himself acknowledged in his victory speech tonight that rampant inflation would be his top priority.
"Resolving the problems resulting from rising prices due to inflation and compensating for the loss of welfare are the most pressing issues facing us. It is not difficult for us to find a solution to these issues," Erdogan confidently declared. The president even called for unity at the end of the turbulent election campaign, but in the same speech he again accused his rival of supporting terrorist organizations and attacked the gay community persecuted under his Islamist regime.
Markets are worried about Erdogan's victory. A man withdrawing money from an ATM in Ankara this morning (Photo: Reuters)
Reality, to Erdogan's dismay, has already slapped him in the face this morning. The lira, which has lost more than 90% of its value over the past decade, hit a near new low this morning when it traded at 20.05 to the dollar. Markets have made no secret of their feelings about Erdogan's further victory, which will have to calm them quickly to prevent the economy from spiraling further.
The economic crisis has also led to a moderation in Erdogan's foreign policy, which has clashed with many of the region's leaders until he began working to minimize damage in recent years. Regional leaders, including Israeli President Isaac Herzog, rushed to congratulate him on Monday as the results became clearer, and they will wait to see if he does not return to his old ways after the sword of loss of power was lifted from his neck.
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