Aa lot of Rumors of the political downfall of Recep Tayyip Erdogan proved exaggerated ahead of the election. On May 28, the second round of voting in the Turkish presidential election was almost completely opened. The Turkish leader won 52.1% of the votes, enough to declare victory. His challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, received 47.9 percent of the vote. Mr Erdogan has ruled Turkey for 20 years, first as prime minister and then president, and now he will be able to rule for another five years, if not more.
Addressing supporters from the top of a campaign bus parked near the Camlica mosque in Istanbul’s Uskudar district, Mr Erdogan delivered a few chants of solidarity before returning to normal. “The only winner today is Türkiye,” he declared.Minutes later, he called the opposition gay sympathizer. “For us, family is sacred,” he said. He remains in campaign mode, eyeing Turkey’s local elections scheduled for next March. “It hasn’t stopped,” he said.
Turkey’s opposition has played its best role in the generation that toppled Mr Erdogan. Six opposition parties have identified a sweeping reform package and a presidential candidate. The economy has been and continues to be ravaged by inflation that topped 86% last year, largely the result of a bizarre monetary policy that sees low interest rates as a way to bring down consumer prices. Poor construction methods, corruption and poor emergency response fueled two earthquakes that killed 50,000 people and covered an area the size of Bulgaria in devastation.
But that’s not enough. Using the same tactics that have helped him win election after election, the Turkish strongman has won again by fanning the flames of Turkey’s culture wars and portraying the opposition as a threat to Turkish culture and national security. He used the support Mr Kilicdaroglu received from the country’s main Kurdish party to accuse his opponent of collaborating with the PKK (PKK), an armed separatist group.Days before the vote, Mr Erdogan casually acknowledged that a paragraph designed to show PKK The fighters sang a campaign song that Mr Kilicdaroglu played at one of his mass rallies, which was actually a fake.
Media bias also helps. Private news channels are largely run by businessmen who benefit from Mr Erdogan, while state media has become an arm of his government, offering the president unlimited airtime and refusing to question his baseless claims on camera, Regurgitate them in his absence.
Mr Kilicdaroglu is primarily present on social media, as well as a handful of outlets with close ties to the opposition.He recently tried to repatriate the millions of refugees stationed in Turkey by promising to repatriate them and rule out any contact with PKK, did not go as planned. Nationalist candidate Sinan Ogun, who won with 5.2 percent of the vote in the first round, backed Mr Erdogan in the second. Many of his constituents appear to be doing the same. Mr Erdogan won by about 2.3 million votes, just shy of his 2.5 million lead in the first round of voting.
The chance to repair Türkiye’s democracy and economy has been lost. The opposition has promised to topple the powerful executive presidency created by Mr Erdogan, a blueprint for one-man rule; to free at least some of Turkey’s political prisoners; and to return power to nominally independent state institutions, starting with the central bank, Then there is Parliament. Mr Erdogan can now rule as he pleases, using his amassed unfettered power to keep the courts, the central bank and his own party in line.
Soon, Turks will have to start focusing on the exchange rate rather than poll numbers and election results. To help Erdogan win the election, Turkey’s central bank is selling billions of dollars in foreign exchange reserves every week to prevent a run on the Turkish currency, the lira, and keep inflation from getting out of hand. The result is an overvalued currency despite losing 80% of its value against the dollar over the past five years.
But there are more and more problems. The central bank’s net foreign exchange reserves turned negative for the first time since 2002. Including swaps with local banks and foreign countries, net reserves are estimated to be in the red at more than $70 billion. The signs of stress are already evident. Since the first round of the presidential election, the lira has fallen 2 percent to a record low of 20 per dollar. Unless Mr. Erdogan reverses course and decides to raise interest rates, the currency will plummet once the central bank runs out of ways to defend it.
Mr Erdogan hinted this would be his last term in office. This isn’t necessarily true. Under a constitutional amendment pushed through by Mr Erdogan in 2017, a second-term president could be re-elected for a third term if parliament holds snap elections before his term ends. This is easy to achieve as Mr Erdogan’s coalition has 323 of the 600 seats in parliament. Mr Erdogan, 69, could remain in power well into the 2030s, assuming his health is good. ■