Erdogan wins Turkey elections but nation remains divided amid economic crisis
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again secured his position as the president of Turkey, solidifying his leadership for a third consecutive decade
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Recep Tayyip Erdogan has secured victory over his opposition Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, extending his two decades in power after an unexpected runoff election. The vote showed the stark polarisation of the country, as Erdogan won 52.14% of the votes, while Kılıçdaroğlu received 47.86%.
In the first round of the election on 14 May, no candidate got the 50% needed for an outright victory, triggering the presidential runoff, though Erdogan took the lead with 49.52%. The head of Turkey's election commission declared Erdogan president again after 99% of the ballot was counted, with a voter turnout on Sunday (28 May) of just over 85%, according to Turkish news agency Anadolu. Before the official results were announced, Erdogan declared himself as winner of the election, although the opposition leader has yet to concede victory.
In his home district in Istanbul Erdogan thanked cheering supporters for voting and told them: “I'll be here until I'm in the grave,” while taunting his opposition, saying “bye, bye, Kemal”. The Daily Sabah reported that Kılıçdaroğlu said he would continue “his struggle for the prosperity and peace of the nation.”
The election was seen as divisive and one of the most consequential yet for the country amid an economic crisis. Erdogan admitted that tackling soaring inflation was the most urgent issue. Speaking to his supporters at his palace in Ankara, Erdogan said: “We are designing an economy focused on investment and employment, with a finance management team that has international reputation.”
In his victory speech, Erdogan pledged to leave all disputes behind and unite behind national values and dreams but then switched gears, lashing out at the opposition and accusing Kılıçdaroğlu of siding with terrorists without providing evidence. He said releasing former pro-Kurdish party leader Selahattin Demirtas, whom he branded a "terrorist," would not be possible under his governance. Demirtas has been in prison since 2016, despite the European Court of Human Rights ordering his release.
Leaders from all over the world congratulated President Erdogan, expressing their willingness to work together on bilateral and global matters. US President Joe Biden said he looked forward to “continuing to work together as NATO Allies on bilateral issues and shared global challenges”, while Russian President Vladimir Putin appreciated Erdogan's contribution toward strengthening relations.
In a statement through the Kremlin, Putin said: “We attach much importance to the consistent implementation of planned joint projects, first and foremost, construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant and the creation of a gas hub in Turkiye.”
Turkey is a key member of the NATO military alliance, taking part in all its missions. While Erdogan maintains ties with Russia he also provides military aid to Ukraine. He was part of brokering a deal whereby Russia ended a blockade on Ukraine grain supplies, and after some hesitation, gave his approval to Russian neighbour Finland in joining NATO. It will remain to be seen whether he agrees for Sweden to also join NATO.