President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a call for national unity on Monday, following his victory in a historic runoff election that extended his divisive but transformative rule until 2028.
On his way to his toughest election victory, the 69-year-old surmounted Turkey’s worst economic crisis in a generation and the most formidable opposition alliance ever to challenge his party.
As Turkiye’s most significant leader in modern history led a sea of supporters in a celebratory song in front of his presidential palace in Ankara, the streets erupted with car horns, and tributes flooded in from around the globe.
Erdogan told the chanting and flag-waving crowd, “We need to come together in unity and solidarity.” “We demand this with all of our heart.”
Nearly complete results indicated that Erdogan defeated Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the secular opposition candidate, by four percentage points.
“I look forward to continuing to work together as NATO Allies on bilateral issues and shared global challenges,” tweeted US President Joe Biden as Erdogan spoke.
Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, stated through a spokesman that he “looks forward to further strengthening cooperation between Turkey and the United Nations.”
Putin said the vote supported Erdogan’s “efforts to bolster state sovereignty and pursue an independent foreign policy.”
Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine expressed his desire to continue working with Erdogan “for the security and stability of Europe.”
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called Erdogan one of the few world leaders “whose politics have been rooted in public service.”
“I eagerly anticipate working with him to further strengthen our strategic partnership through the exceptional brotherhood between our two nations,” he said.
Additionally, leaders from Europe and the Arab world, as well as former U.S. President Donald Trump, extended their congratulations.
Massive crowds of singing, flag-waving supporters congregated throughout Turkey, halting traffic on Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square.
In the Turkish capital, 17-year-old Nisa Sivaslioglu stated, “Our people chose the right man.”
I anticipate Erdogan to add to the positive contributions he has already made to our country.
In what was widely regarded as the most consequential election in Turkey’s 100-year history as a post-Ottoman republic, the country’s longest-serving leader was tested as never before.
Kilicdaroglu forced Erdogan into the first runoff in Turkey on May 14 and narrowed Erdogan’s lead in the second round.
Opposition supporters viewed it as a do-or-die opportunity to prevent a man whose consolidation of power rivals that of Ottoman sultans from transforming Turkey into an autocracy.
About Erdogan, Kilicdaroglu’s terse concession statement conveyed “deep regret over the impending difficulties facing the country.”
After the first round, the opposition leader emerged as a transformed individual.
The 74-year-old former civil servant’s message of social unity and freedoms was replaced by desk-thumping speeches about the urgent need to expel migrants and combat terrorism.
His shift to the right was aimed at the nationalists who dominated the parallel parliamentary elections.
Analysts doubted the success of Kilicdaroglu’s wager.
His informal alliance with a pro-Kurdish party, which Erdogan portrays as the political wing of outlawed militants, exposed him to accusations of collaborating with “terrorists.”
And Kilicdaroglu’s courtship of Turkey’s extreme right was hindered by Erdogan’s endorsement from a third-placed ultranationalist two weeks prior.
“Erdogan played the nationalist card quite deftly,” associate fellow at Chatham House Galip Dalay told AFP.
Despite Turkey’s poor economic state, the opposition couldn’t come up with an alternative story to overshadow Erdogan’s.
Champion of the weak
Due to his promotion of religious freedoms and modernization of once-dilapidated cities in the Anatolian heartland. Erdogan is revered by the impoverished and more rural segments of Turkey’s fractured society.
However, his persecution of dissent and aggressive foreign policies have raised Western concerns.
He invaded Syria, angering European powers and pitting Turkish troops against US-backed Kurds.
Additionally, his relationship with Putin has survived the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The delay of Russian energy import payments aided Turkey’s suffering economy, allowing Erdogan to freely spend campaign funds this year.
In addition to delaying Finland’s NATO membership, Erdogan continues to prevent Sweden from joining the US-led military alliance.
“Day of judgment”
The most immediate test for Erdogan will be Turkey’s economic collapse.
He looked through several central bankers to find one who would decrease interest rates in 2021 at all costs.
The Turkish lira quickly entered a freefall, and annual inflation reached 85 percent last year.
Erdogan has pledged to continue these policies and has rebuffed the dire economic forecasts of analysts.
Ahead of the election, Turkey spent tens of billions of dollars attempting to protect the lira from politically sensitive declines.
According to numerous analysts, Turkey must now raise interest rates or forsake its efforts to support the lira.
Capital Economics analysts warned that “the day of reckoning for Turkey’s economy and financial markets may be just around the corner.”