Erdogan confronts polarized Turkey after historic victory

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan On Monday he faced the difficult task of uniting his deeply divided country after winning a historic run-off to extend his two-decade rule until 2028.
Turkey’s longest-serving leader brushed aside a powerful opposition coalition, a biting economic crisis and widespread anger following a devastating earthquake in February to beat secular challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu in Sunday’s vote.
But the four-point margin of victory was Erdogan’s narrowest in any past election, underscoring the sharp polarization the conservative of Islamic background will face in his third and final term as president.
Erdogan tried to sound conciliatory in a victory speech to thousands of jubilant supporters gathered outside the presidential palace in Ankara, calling on Turks to “come together in unity and solidarity”.
Kilicdaroglu remained defiant as he vowed to “continue the fight” against Erdogan and his AKP party, which has dominated Turkish politics since 2002.
“Our elders have taught us to struggle…we will not lose or abandon this country with just one election,” Bugra Iyimaya, a 28-year-old academic in Istanbul, told AFP.
“We will resist and fight to the end.”
Delighted Erdogan supporters hailed the man they call ‘Reis’ (leader) after winning the first run-off in Turkey’s history.
“Whoever is beneficial to our country has won. I am very happy because of his beliefs, the rest does not matter. The country comes first,” Gursel Ozkok, 65, told AFP. street vendor in Ankara.
“The man of the people has won,” exclaimed the front page of the pro-government daily Sabah on Monday.
After tapping into a coalition of nationalist, conservative and religious voters, Erdogan “will double down on his brand of populist policies…political polarization is here to stay,” said Emre Peker of consultancy Eurasia Group.
Relieving Turks from the country’s worst economic crisis since the 1990s is one of Erdogan’s urgent priorities.
Years of development fueled by infrastructure projects and a boom in the construction industry have earned him enormous popularity and a loyal voter base that has never abandoned him.
But inflation now stands at over 40%, partly exacerbated by Erdogan’s unorthodox policy of cutting interest rates in an attempt to calm soaring prices.
Analysts say Erdogan’s lavish campaign spending pledges and unwavering commitment to lower interest rates will further weigh on banks’ foreign exchange reserves and the lira, which fell slightly against the dollar on Monday. .
“The current setup just isn’t sustainable,” noted BlueBay Asset Management’s Timothy Ash, pointing to the tens of billions of dollars the central bank has spent to support the lira.
If Erdogan refuses to flip-flop on interest rates and ditch the lira, “it could get ugly”, he warned.
A colossal reconstruction effort in southeastern Turkey is still in its early stages after February’s earthquake killed more than 50,000 people and destroyed entire towns.
The disaster has deepened economic hardship as hundreds of thousands lost their livelihoods overnight and forecasters slashed Turkey’s growth outlook for 2023, with damage estimated at more than 100 billion of dollars.
US President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin were among world leaders lining up to congratulate Erdogan, but major diplomatic conundrums lie in the 69-year-old’s receiving tray.
NATO partners are eagerly awaiting Ankara’s endorsement of Sweden’s bid to join the US-led defense alliance.
Erdogan blocked the offer, accusing Stockholm of harboring Turkish opposition figures with alleged links to banned Kurdish activists.
Observers expect Erdogan to continue to play a bridge role between Russia and its Western partners to Turkey’s benefit.
“Another five years of Erdogan means more geopolitical balance between Russia and the West,” said Galip Dalay, an associate fellow at the Chatham House think tank.
“Turkey and the West will engage in transactional cooperation wherever their interests require,” not joining Western sanctions against Moscow over the war in Ukraine and seeking economically profitable relations, he added.
Ties with neighboring Syria remain at a low point after Turkey backed rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war. Recent Russian-mediated talks have failed to achieve a breakthrough towards normalizing relations.
Monday also coincides with the anniversary of the 1453 conquest of Constantinople – the former name of Istanbul – by the Ottomans, a symbolic commemoration after the victory of Erdogan and the parliamentary majority of his far-right nationalist allies.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GreenLeaf Tw2sl