The man who revels in his image as Turkey’s strongman took the lead almost as soon as the polls closed in the second round of the presidential election.
The celebrations began long before the official declaration. But in truth, the dye was thrown out some time ago, before the election.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğaneven before the start of the campaign for the unprecedented runoff was one of the leaders comfortably confident of securing his third decade in office in a country which occupies a unique geographical position in the world.
Last elections in Türkiye:
Erdogan thanks the crowd as election officials declare him the winner
From the moment he voted in the first round to extend his term as president, he appeared extremely relaxed about his chances of winning.
This is despite polls showing him trailing his challenger, the leader of a six-party alliance called Kemal Kilicdoroglu.
by Mr Erdogan re-election comes in the teeth of a spiraling economy, runaway inflation and in the wake of a horrible natural disaster clouded by accusations, his government was slow to react.
“We are so happy,” one of his fans told us outside his Istanbul home. “Our economy is doing well… OK, it’s been bad for two years but we trust him and he will do his best.”
“Goodbye Kemal,” others told us. “Erdogan is our strong leader,” was the mantra repeated to us over and over again.
The people gathered waving flags, throwing fireworks and singing and dancing on the roads leading to his home in the city’s Uskudar district were mainly religious conservatives, many of them women, wearing for most hijabs and conservative Muslim clothing.
“We love Erdogan,” they told us.
Less than an hour after the polls closed, with just 55% of the votes counted, the incumbent had already taken a solid lead, according to state broadcaster TRT.
This very early lead never seemed likely to change.
Later counting narrowed the gap somewhat, but the incumbent still managed to secure more than half of the votes cast, with his rival trailing by around four points. (The latest official figures at the time of writing show 52.1% for Mr. Erdogan and 47.8% for Mr. Kilicdaroglu.)
This is how the opposition and most Western media presented the result of the first round.
But in reality, the odds were still very high against any electoral upheaval or success for his rival.
Mr Erdogan has spent his two decades at the helm consolidating his power – suppressing dissent, intimidating and jailing opposition politicians and journalists and ensuring that Turkey’s media is mostly state-controlled and complains .
International observers in the country monitoring the initial vote criticized Mr. Erdogan’s use of state resources and his control of the media to improperly influence the electorate.
Once the dust settles, they will likely voice the same concerns this time around.
In his concession speech, Mr Kilicdoroglu called it “the most unfair election campaign ever”, referring to the heavily biased coverage of the president’s campaign in most Turkish media rather than his own.
When we managed to get close enough to ask the incumbent leader if he would accept the outcome of the vote regardless of the outcome (in the first round), he sharply chastised us for questioning his approach and ” history” over the past 20 years.
“That’s a very bad question,” he told me.
“You don’t know me and how I’ve been for the past 20 years,” he scolded me as his security detail and political team rushed to move him quickly.
His critics believe his next five years in power will likely see him lead the country further down the autocratic path he embarked on several years ago.
It’s an easier path after his AK party won 266 seats in the parliamentary elections, giving an impressive total of 321, including his coalition partners.
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If his campaign over the past two weeks and his repeated criticism of Western journalists’ coverage of the election is anything to go by, President Erdogan is likely to intensify his strained relationship with foreign media and critical nations. his leadership.
At a rally, he told his supporters: “We are in competition with those who are trying to disrupt Turkey’s century.
“Magazines have covers saying Erdogan has to go. It’s none of your business. The West can’t decide that. It depends on my nation.”
The influence of Mr. Erdogan during his years in power on international affairs such as Russia–Ukraine War and the European migration crisis has been crucial. And he skillfully used his position.
A largely wary West has seen him maneuver into a pivotal global venue – able to talk to the leaders of Russia and Ukraine as well as America and Iran – and build vital bridges with key economic powers like Saudi Arabia, as well as sending peacekeeping troops to countries like Somalia and Libya.
He has visited African countries more times than any other non-African leader during his tenure.
The West will be disappointed with Erdogan’s electoral success
As a member of NATO, he has shown he can wield considerable influence for political gain, as he recently demonstrated with the belated but definitive finland acceptance in the club.
Turkey’s acquiescence only came after Finland agreed to take a tougher line against Kurdish dissidents and the Kurdish PKK party.
Now on his own turf, he has once again proven the critics wrong and outmaneuvered his toughest opponents and his grip on power seems unassailable.