Supporters of Recep Tayyip Erdogan are rejoicing, following the victory of Turkey’s long-standing president in Sunday’s elections, thus guaranteeing an additional five years in office.
“The entire nation of 85 million won,” he proclaimed to enthusiastic crowds outside his massive palace on the outskirts of Ankara.
Yet, his plea for unity seemed insincere as he mocked his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu, while also targeting an imprisoned Kurdish leader and the LGBT community.
The opposition leader criticized “the most unfair election in recent years”.
Mr. Kilicdaroglu alleged that the president’s political party had leveraged all state resources against him and he didn’t explicitly concede defeat.
With slightly over 52% of the vote, Erdogan secured a victory despite opposition to his autocratic view of Turkey.
Mr. Kilicdaroglu fell short against the well-orchestrated Erdogan campaign, despite forcing a first-ever second round run-off in the directly elected presidency since 2014.
However, he hardly made a scratch in his opponent’s initial lead, trailing by over two million votes.
The president celebrated his triumph, addressing supporters in Istanbul and from his palace balcony, estimating a crowd of 320,000.
“It is not just us who won, Turkey won,” he declared, terming it one of the most crucial elections in Turkish history.
He gloated over his rival’s defeat, mocking him with the phrase, “Bye, bye, Kemal” – a chant that was echoed by his supporters in Ankara.
Mr. Erdogan scorned the opposition party’s increased parliamentary seats, claiming the true count was 129 after transferring seats to allies.
He further censured the opposition alliance’s support of LGBT policies, arguing that it was at odds with his own emphasis on families.
The pre-election campaign turned hostile, culminating in a disturbing fatal stabbing of an opposition Good party official in front of a party office in Ordu.
The reasons behind Erhan Kurt’s murder were uncertain, but a senior opposition figure attributed it to youths exulting the election outcome.
Ankara’s supporters flocked from across the city to celebrate the triumph, chanting Islamic verses and praying on the grass with Turkish flags.
Despite unverified tallies, the Supreme Election Council declared no doubt about the winner. The accessibility of the palace complex, like this outcome, was rare, extending his reign for a quarter-century.
Despite the festivities, Turkey’s economic crisis briefly faded away. Seyhan, a supporter, dismissed the crisis as fabricated, expressing satisfaction with Erdogan’s economic policies.
However, the president acknowledged that managing inflation was a top concern. The crucial question is whether he will take necessary actions to address the nearly 44% annual inflation rate affecting all aspects of life.
The rising costs of food, rent, and daily necessities are worsened by Erdogan’s rejection of conventional economic practices, including raising interest rates.
The Turkish lira has reached record lows against the dollar, and the central bank faces increasing demand for foreign currency.
Professor Selva Demiralp from Koc University warned that if low interest rates persist, stricter capital controls may be the only alternative.
Erdogan’s supporters, proud of his global influence and tough stance against “terrorists” (referring to Kurdish militants), overlooked economic concerns.
Erdogan accused his counterpart of siding with terrorists and criticized him for promising to free Selahattin Demirtas, a former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP opposition party.
Despite a European Court ruling for Demirtas’ release, he has remained imprisoned since 2016, with Erdogan vowing to keep him locked up as long as he is in power.
Erdogan also pledged to prioritize post-earthquake reconstruction and facilitate the “voluntary” repatriation of a million Syrian refugees.
In Istanbul’s Taksim Square, crowds gathered, including many from the Middle East and the Gulf. Palestinians from Jordan displayed Turkish flags, and a visitor from Tunisia praised Erdogan for supporting Arabs and the Muslim world.
Despite the festivities, unity in this divided country appears more elusive than ever. Since the failed coup in 2016, Erdogan has consolidated power by abolishing the prime minister’s role, which his opponent pledged to limit.
A voter in Ankara expressed concern about the brain drain caused by the post-coup purge, with the risk of it worsening. The defeated opposition needs to regroup before the upcoming 2024 local elections.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, a popular opposition figure, urged supporters not to lose hope and called for change. His social media video was seen as a subtle suggestion for new opposition leadership.
He reminded them of their victories in Istanbul and Ankara in 2019, emphasizing the need for different actions to expect different results.
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