Following his recent victory in the Turkish presidential elections, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was re-elected for a third term, extending his two-decade rule through 2028. Erdogan became Turkey’s president in 2014 after serving as its prime minister since 2003.
Erdogan, who is often regarded as Turkey’s most significant, influential, and polarizing leader in recent memory, faced formidable challenges before the election. A powerful coalition had been built to oppose the Turkish president and his conservative Justice and Development party as the country is apparently experiencing the greatest economic crisis in a century.
Most analysts believe that Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s alliance of secular opposition parties, which includes nationalists, religious conservatives, and erstwhile Erdogan loyalists, will be his fiercest competitors to date. Kilicdaroglu ultimately forced Erdogan into a runoff, a first for the nation, which he lost by a relatively small margin of about four percentage points.
An endorsement Erodgan obtained from the head of an ultra-nationalist party that finished third in the first round of voting was crucial to his victory since it lessened the influence of Kilicdaroglu’s right-wing, anti-immigrant rhetoric that was directed at the nationalist vote.
Erdogan’s continued support among his traditional base—the less developed and rural parts of Turkey—was highlighted by the recent elections more so than his efforts to court the nationalist vote.
Erdogan has amassed a significant amount of political capital among the citizens of these regions as a result of his modernization of the Turkish heartland and emphasis on resurrecting Islamic identity and values, which has allowed him to get through the economic catastrophe he has presided over as president. His devoted following may help him maintain his position of authority, but it won’t make his job of leading the nation any simpler.
Erdogan’s management of the economy has come under heavy fire in recent years, with his efforts to keep interest rates low causing a collapse in the value of the Turkish lira and an increase in inflation that reached 85% last year. Erdogan has pledged to intensify these tactics, and he even poured billions of dollars into trying to support the lira in the run-up to the most recent election. The efforts Erdogan has made to revitalize Turkey’s impoverished and rural areas may ultimately be jeopardized by this trajectory, marring an otherwise outstanding economic legacy.
Some claim that Erdogan has recently embraced a more autocratic form of governing in addition to these economic difficulties. His detractors claim that under his leadership, censorship of the media, online content, and dissidents have intensified, allowing Erdogan to solidify his control. In addition, Erdogan’s domestic and foreign policies have come under increasing scrutiny from Western politicians, particularly as the US-Turkey relationship has deteriorated.
Although connections with Russia have endured the conflict in Ukraine, Erdogan is unlikely to gain any favor with other NATO leaders who have adopted a far more antagonistic tone towards Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin.
Even while Erdogan’s most recent triumph was battled for, it is obvious that the hardest challenges are still to come.