Recep Tayyip Erdogan has secured yet another term in office, after an historic election that went to a runoff. The Turkish leader fought back a tough challenge from opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
Turkey’s incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has secured another five years in office, after narrowly winning Sunday’s runoff vote.
Erdogan beat his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu after reaping 52.14% of the votes, Election Board (YSK) head Ahmet Yener said on Sunday.
The Turkish president spoke to supporters shortly after declaring victory, saying voters had given him the responsibility of governing for the next five years.
“The only winner today is Turkey,” Erdogan said.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Kilicdaroglu condemned the “most unfair election in years,” yet pledged to continue “leading this struggle” against the Erdogan government.
“We will continue to be at the forefront of this struggle until real democracy comes to our country,” he said.
“My real sadness is about the difficulties awaiting the country,” he said, without explicitly conceding defeat.
Erdogan calls for ‘unity and solidarity’
In a victory speech on Sunday night, Erdogan called for “unity and solidarity,” vowing to leave all disputes behind and unite the nation behind “national values and dreams.”
Erdogan said his narrow win in the race was one for “Turkish democracy” and all of the country’s 85 million citizens.
“We have no resentment, no anger or frustration with anyone,” the French AFP news agency quoted him as saying. “Today, nobody lost. The entire nation of 85 million won.”
Then, Erdogan switched to declaring “terrorist organizations” as the losers of the vote.
He acknowledged that the country’s severely high inflation was the most urgent issue at hand, but said it was not a difficult one to solve, promising inflation would fall and vowing to build a strong economy based on stability and confidence.
He also pledged to secure the return of an additional 1 million Syrians who had sought refuge in neighboring Turkey during their country’s civil war.
Erdogan said rebuilding cities hit by a devastating earthquake in February would be his priority.
What does this mean for Turkey?
Erdogan’s latest victory makes him Turkey’s longest-serving ruler since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the republic a century ago. It will reinvigorate his push for unconventional economic, domestic, and foreign policies.
The leader of Turkey’s conservative AKP (Justice and Development Party) has touted Islamic values and a populist outlook.
During his two-decade reign, he emboldened Turkey’s conservative citizens who had long felt marginalized under consecutive secular rulers. Erdogan, for example, has vowed to enshrine the right to wear the Islamic headscarf in the constitution and declared Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia a mosque after a court ruling.
He also challenged Western partners and NATO allies on several occasions, most recently by delaying Norway’s succession to the alliance and blocking Sweden altogether.
NATO allies including the US, Germany, the UK, and France were quick to congratulate Erdogan on his latest win, joining Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom the Turkish leader continued to maintain ties even after the war in Ukraine.
Perhaps the biggest domestic challenge to Erdogan’s popularity was his unorthodox economic policies, which analysts blame for the country’s current inflation and cost-of-living crises. The country’s volatile economy is also expected to top his list of challenges.
In 2021, Erdogan insisted on slashing interest rates at all costs, driving the local currency into freefall and hiking the annual inflation rate to up to 85% last year.
The Turkish leader has vowed to stay on course, despite warnings from analysts.
Sluggish relief efforts after devastating earthquakes in the Turkish-Syrian border region earlier this year have also drawn fierce criticism toward Erdogan’s government.