News Desk Opinion World

Wed 17 May 2023:

Istanbul, Turkey – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised his supporters a “bigger victory” when they return to the polls in 12 days’ time in a run-off vote for the country’s top job.

Erdogan, who is seeking a third term as president and a five-year extension of his 20-year rule, has appeared in a buoyant mood since Sunday’s parliamentary and presidential elections.

In the face of an economic crisis, criticism over the response to February’s earthquakes and opinion polls that indicated a win for his main rival, the president emerged largely – if not totally – victorious.

Although he must face a second round against opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu on May 28, as no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, momentum seems to be with Turkey’s electorally most successful politician.

“Now is the time to crown the success we achieved on May 14 with a bigger victory,” he tweeted on Tuesday. “With Allah’s permission, we will make May 28 the forerunner of the Century of Turkey.”

Erdogan, however, cannot afford to let the machinery of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) run out of steam.

Although he received 49.5 percent of the vote in the presidential race to Kilicdaroglu’s 44.9 percent, his party dropped votes from the 2018 elections.

The AK Party remains the largest party in parliament – and has a majority with the backing of its alliance partners – but it recorded the lowest level of support since it came to power in 2002, securing 35.6 percent of ballots.

Referring to the drop in AK Party seats during a TV interview on Tuesday evening, Erdogan said the party was making “our preparations to eliminate” any mistakes.

Despite such admissions, however, his confidence seems unaffected. On Sunday evening, Erdogan appeared on the balcony of the AK Party headquarters in Ankara – a now traditional victory celebration for the leader – preparing voters for the forthcoming run-off.

“Mr Erdogan was out, front and centre on his balcony in front of thousands of supporters in a carefully choreographed event, cheering on the crowd and mobilising that voter base,” said Sinan Ciddi, a Turkey expert at the US Marine Corps University in Virginia.

Burhanettin Duran, general coordinator of the pro-government SETA think tank, said Erdogan had two advantages in the second round – controlling parliament and winning Sunday’s election by a clear margin.

“Erdogan, who needs an additional 0.5 percent of the vote, is expected to easily take the second round,” he said. “Indeed, Erdogan’s overarching and self-confident speech from the balcony at his party’s headquarters demonstrated this comfort.

“At the same time, this was a good start to the second-round campaign.”

Referring to his alliance’s control of parliament, Erdogan stressed the need for “stability and trust” between the government and the legislature. “The strong position of the People’s Alliance in the assembly makes us stronger,” he told broadcasters CNN Turk and Kanal D.

Erdogan’s campaign so far has focused on a number of key areas that he is expected to maintain over the coming days, many designed to shore up nationalist and conservative support.

Appeal to national pride

In an appeal to national pride, he has emphasised the advances seen under his rule, including infrastructure projects, developments in the defence industry and vital energy schemes.

Over recent weeks Erdogan initiated the delivery of natural gas from the Black Sea, enabling him to give households free gas during May, and opened Turkey’s first nuclear power station, built by Russia’s Rosatom.

The “world’s first drone-carrier”, the amphibious assault ship TCG Anadolu, docked in Istanbul and Izmir for curious Turks keen to see the latest offering in Turkey’s bid to become self-sufficient in defence. Erdogan was also present for a test of the future “national combat aircraft”.

“National security, an independent foreign policy and a national defence industry will find a strong response among the electorate,” said Okan Muderrisoglu, a columnist for the Erdogan-supporting Sabah newspaper.

The government’s record on fighting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has also been at the centre of Erdogan’s messaging, painting Kilicdaroglu as soft on terror due to the support he receives from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

The government says the HDP is linked to the PKK and thousands of the party’s members have been prosecuted in terrorism cases in recent years.

“The opposition needs to understand that it cannot win elections by suppressing its opponents with pressure and cooperating with the extensions of the terrorist organisation,” Erdogan said in Tuesday’s TV interview.

“People vote for those who will serve them, not terrorist organisations.”

On his plans for the second phase of electioneering, Erdogan said he would visit the earthquake zone, where support for the AK Party was largely maintained.

Andrew Wilks

Andrew Wilks

Andrew Wilks is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul, Turkey. He previously worked as the deputy editor of Anadolu news agency and for UK-based newspapers






Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *