Unsure about the future, Turks voted for certainty

Three crises — including the economy and earthquakes — likely counted towards Recep Tayyip Erdogan's election win

Recep Tayyip Erdogan's supporters are celebrating after he won Sunday's vote, securing another five years in power. (Photo: DW)
Recep Tayyip Erdogan's supporters are celebrating after he won Sunday's vote, securing another five years in power. (Photo: DW)


Those in Turkey and the rest of the world who had hoped that there might be a new president in Ankara after more than 20 years were bitterly disappointed on the evening of the presidential runoff election. Because the old president is also the new one ― Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

As the sitting president, Erdogan had all options at his disposal to carry out his election campaign with enormous media support. Election advertising on state television, well-publicized appearances throughout the country, and everything paid for out of the state's own coffers.

And his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu? Limited funds from his party, the Republican People's Party, or CHP, and no airtime on the state-controlled media. You can also imagine it this way: Erdogan in the race, backed by a Formula One team, managed to beat Kilicdaroglu, who entered the contest riding the equivalent of a soapbox on wheels.

Three emergencies

Three main points massively influenced the election campaign and its outcome in Turkey. First, Turkey experienced a natural disaster of historic proportions in February, with more than 51,000 people killed in earthquakes in Turkey alone.

Second, the country is in a bad economic way: Inflation is higher than it has been in 20 years, and unemployment, which is also high, affects the younger population in particular. And the brain drain of recent years is further weakening the economy.

Thirdly, since 2015 there have been refugees in the country, mainly from Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. They number around 4 million, according to the UN Refugee Agency. Both Erdogan and also Kilicdaroglu have repeatedly said during the election campaign that they will solve the "refugee problem." How? Quite simply ― they will "send them all back home."

On all three issues, refugees, earthquakes and the economy, the majority of voters believe that the more experienced leader is more likely to find solutions than the opposition politician who has never been in government. Erdogan has ruled Turkey for more than 20 years, first as prime minister and since 2014 as president.

What will happen next?

For Erdogan, the campaigning never stops. On the night of the runoff election, Erdogan attacked the opposition and the country's LGBTQ community during his first victory speech ― a sign that things will remain difficult for these groups. From the roof of his tour bus, he shouted to his constituents in Istanbul, "the victory today is only the beginning. Next year, we will win Istanbul again in the local elections, and Ankara too!"

That is a direct challenge to Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor of Istanbul and Ankara's Mansur Yavas. Both are members of the CHP, like Kilicdaroglu.

But it is also clear that Erdogan urgently needs to do something to boost the economy in Turkey after his election victory. In this respect, it was not surprising that he highlighted congratulations from the Gulf states while atop his tour bus in Istanbul.

"I will go on a thank you trip to the region," he said. A sign, according to experts, that he will potentially get more money from there.

What next for the opposition leader?

In many countries around the world, defeated candidates have been known to resign, making way for a fresh start for their parties. But there were no resignation announcements in Turkey.

In the evening, opposition leader Kilicdaroglu announced that he wanted to continue and not disappoint those who had supported him. Whether this is the right signal for the volatile opposition remains to be seen. The CHP chairman does not even have a parliamentary mandate.

Erdogan, on the other hand, is already assured a place in the history books as the president who ushered in the second century of the Turkish Republic and the leader who will have shaped Turkey for at least a quarter century.

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