Erdoğan won the Turkish presidential elections in the second round. His alliance also achieved an absolute majority in parliament. He cannot rest on this victory: Turkey is confronted with immense problems.
It was a novelty: for the first time, Erdoğan gave his victory speech on election night not from the balcony of the AKP party headquarters, but from the balcony of his gigantic palace. His authoritarian presidential system had been confirmed, the signal said. Over three hundred thousand cheering supporters had poured into the palace courtyard, and his name was chanted from the speakers. In the second ballot, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his electorate were not concerned with issues, it was all about him as a person. Erdogan will now go down in history as the “greatest statesman of his time,” wrote the pro-government newspaper Blattt Star that he was something of an “election-winning machine.”
Turkish lira is depreciating
But the ecstasy of victory shouldn’t last long. The Turkish lira lost value against the euro and dollar on Tuesday. Turkey’s foreign trade deficit grew by $43.4 billion in the first four months of this year; central bank reserves shrank to their lowest level in 21 years in May. The central bank was believed to have sold off massive amounts of reserves in recent weeks to keep the lira stable ahead of the election.
A new wave of inflation is likely, and many in Turkey also fear a banking crisis. While international markets had always favored the stability of the Erdoğan regime in previous elections, they wanted the opposition to win for the first time. But now Erdoğan appears to be the greater risk. Because the judiciary and the central bank are no longer independent, the bureaucracy is undermined by corruption and nepotism. However, his supporters believe that Erdoğan is the only one who can put things right.
Erdoğan received almost 52 percent of the votes in the second ballot, surprisingly the same as in the two previous presidential elections in 2014 and 2018. Contrary to expectations, the opposition was unable to increase its number of votes despite the inflation and currency crisis, the earthquake of the century and the refugee issue. Their attempt at a broad opposition alliance and common candidate was as unsuccessful as previous attempts to field multiple candidates. On the other hand, it is a remarkable achievement that opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu received almost 48 percent of the votes despite the immense pressure on members of the opposition and critical media, despite smear campaigns, waves of arrests and bans on protests. Because while the elections were reasonably free and fair, the campaign was not at all.
local elections next year
In his balcony speech, Erdoğan continued to aggressively rumble against the opposition, again defaming them as terrorist aides. As he agitated against Selahattin Demirtaş, the imprisoned ex-co-chair of the pro-Kurdish HDP, the crowd in front of him yelled “Death penalty for Selo” – Demirtaş’s nickname. A frightening moment that gives little hope for the tens of thousands of political prisoners in Turkey.
Erdoğan’s toughness despite winning the election can also be explained by the fact that local elections are due in Turkey next year. In the current elections, Kılıçdaroğlu came out on top in major cities such as Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Adana and Eskisehir. These cities are already governed by Kılıçdaroğlu’s secular-leaning CHP, a sister party of the SPD. That annoys Erdoğan, because the country’s greatest benefices are in these cities. Erdoğan already emphasized on the evening of the election that he wanted to recapture these cities next year. Turkey is expecting the next election campaign mode soon – although the electorate is enormously exhausted.
It is completely unclear what will become of the six-party opposition alliance by then. The leaders of the alliance met on the evening of the election, but made no statement afterwards. Candidate Kılıçdaroğlu previously gave a self-defense speech with trembling hands and stressed that he wanted to continue his fight for justice and democracy. At the same time calls for his resignation are getting louder. After all, Kılıçdaroğlu has already lost many elections in his 13-year tenure as party leader.
What will become of the opposition?
“He was just the wrong candidate,” it now sounds on social media. He is too left-wing, lacks charisma, vision and courage, and anyway, as an Alevi, nationalists and conservatives cannot vote for him, so the arguments go. Kılıçdaroğlu’s election campaign has long been very strong; many Turks welcomed his promise to reconcile the Turkish people. However, his promise of democracy lost credibility last week when he pandered to ultra-nationalists and agitated against refugees with unusually radical words.
Some people in Europe should therefore be relieved that Erdoğan won, comments the blog Yetkin Report. While Kılıçdaroğlu promised to send millions of Syrian refugees back to their homeland, Erdogan ruled this out. The West has come to terms with Erdoğan on other issues as well. Sweden can hope that Erdogan will soon agree to join NATO. Although Erdoğan has not joined the sanctions against Russia, to the anger of the West, he has established himself as a mediator between Moscow and Kiev, for example in the grain deal. Turkey’s EU accession is out of the question under Erdoğan’s authoritarian regime, observes journalist Murat Yetkin. That is very convenient for the EU – after all, under Erdoğan, it does not have to seriously deal with
Half of the Turkish population still wants change. In order to lead Turkey out of the crisis and to stop the exodus of young people, change is essential. The next few months will show whether new opposition personnel appear on the scene.