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Victory of democracy? Erdogan becomes president again

2023-05-29T14:30:36.065Z

Highlights: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won the run-off election against his challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu. The opposition, which ran in a six-party alliance, complained of an unfair election campaign. Europe and the U.S. must now continue to prepare for negotiations with a difficult NATO partner. Erdogan is likely to retain his role as mediator in the Ukraine war. He owes his electoral success to the support of an Islamist-nationalist alliance. This could further shape his politics in the future.



Recep Tayyip Erdogan in front of supporters at the presidential palace in Ankara. © Ali Unal/AP

The opposition came very close to a change of power in Turkey. But Erdogan has managed to do it again after 20 years in power. His enemies have already been identified.

Istanbul - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being celebrated. He stands in front of his palace in the capital Ankara, thousands of people cheer him with Turkish flags. "Our democracy has triumphed," he says. None of the 85 million Turks have lost, he is conciliatory at first - and shortly afterwards accuses the opposition of having links to terrorists.

Erdogan has won the run-off election against his challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu, cementing his power once again after 20 years at the helm of Turkey. According to preliminary results, he received about 52 percent of the vote, Kilicdaroglu about 48 percent. Already in the first round two weeks ago, contrary to all predictions, he was ahead, but fell short of the necessary absolute majority.

In the end, the currency crisis, poor crisis management after the earthquake catastrophe in February and harsh action against government opponents could not harm Erdogan.

Opposition denounces unfair election campaign

The opposition, which ran in a six-party alliance, complained of an unfair election campaign. She had hoped to be able to democratize the country again after an election victory. Their supporters are devastated. Kilicdaroglu believes that despite Erdogan's victory, the election shows that the people want the "change of an authoritarian government".

Observers fear that Erdogan will rule even more authoritarian in the future after he has once again legitimized his power. Europe and the United States must now continue to prepare for negotiations with a difficult NATO partner. Erdogan is likely to retain his role as mediator in the Ukraine war.

Erdogan also owes his electoral success to the support of an Islamist-nationalist alliance. This could further shape his politics in the future. "Erdogan has changed the character of the state. He has managed to transform the Turkish state from a secular-nationalist to an Islamist-nationalist. And he will continue to drive this forward," says Asli Hürcan Aksoy from the Center for Turkish Studies (CATS).

After Erdogan's victory, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and thousands of supporters celebrated their morning prayers in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

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In 2020, Erdogan had the former church converted from a museum into a mosque despite international protest - a gift to his religious clientele.

Symbolic triumph thanks to anniversaries

Also symbolic and a triumph for Erdogan: his victory coincided with the 10th anniversary of the anti-government Gezi protests. In the spring of 2013, young people across the country in particular rebelled against Erdogan's increasingly repressive policies. Erdogan, then prime minister, had the protests crushed.

The defeat is all the more bitter for the opposition. She looks at Erdogan's partner with horror. With the Islamist-Kurdish Hüda Par and the Islamist Yeniden Refah, Erdogan has brought two parties into parliament that pursue LGBT and misogynistic policies. The Hüda Par, for example, wants to enforce the protection of the "traditional" family from "deviant" ideologies and teach girls and boys separately.

The biggest challenge for Erdogan after the election will be the economy. According to experts, the massive inflation of around 44 percent is also homemade, because Erdogan is sticking to his low interest rate policy, contrary to current economic logic.

Erdogan has nevertheless managed to convince his supporters that he is not to blame for the economic situation. Economics professor Selva Demiralp wrote in an article that if Erdogan does not return to conventional economic policy, it will be very difficult to repair the damage already done. "Very critical days" awaited Turkey.

Most of the media controlled by Erdogan

Part of Erdogan's success story is also the unequal starting conditions in elections. According to international election observers, the election campaign was unfair from the outset. Erdogan had "unjustified advantages," they criticized. The majority of the media is controlled by Erdogan, the opposition was hardly mentioned - and when it was, it was mostly negative.

Erdogan also generously distributed election gifts paid for from the treasury. And he showed manipulated videos. He denounced the opposition as terrorists, and his interior minister put pressure on independent election observers. During the vote, several of them were attacked.

The six-party alliance led by Kilicdaroglu, on the other hand, has failed to convey to a majority that the opposition leader is the better alternative to Erdogan. In the first round, she relied on a positive election campaign and conciliatory rhetoric. Before the second round, the U-turn followed. In a seemingly desperate attempt to win over ultra-nationalist voters, Kilicdaroglu fueled anti-refugee rhetoric. He made a pact with a right-wing nationalist politician. The 180-degree turnaround did not go down well in its own ranks either, and especially not among Kurdish voters. Although the pro-Kurdish HDP once again called for support for Kilicdaroglu, voter turnout in the Kurdish-dominated southeast was lower than in the first round.

The most nationalist parliament in history

The minority should probably not expect an easing of reprisals or even an effort to find a solution to the Kurdish conflict. In addition, the parliament, in which Erdogan's alliance holds a majority, is the most nationalist in Turkey's history. In his victory speech, Erdogan made it clear that former HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas, who has been imprisoned since 2016, would not be released from prison "as long as we are in power" – even though the European Court of Human Rights had ordered his release.

At least the approximately 3.4 million Syrians in the country are likely to breathe a sigh of relief after Erdogan's victory. Although Erdogan, like the opposition, has announced that he will send refugees back to northern Syria, observers do not expect any major resettlements. Erdogan knows very well that medium-sized Turkish entrepreneurs in Gaziantep and Sanliurfa in southeastern Turkey need Syrian refugees as workers, says expert Aksoy. "These companies are the backbone of his clientele-based system." dpa

Source: merkur

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