Once again, political soothsayers have been proved wrong. Turkey’s strong-man president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 69, disproves his political demise and wins presidential elections again. Mr Erdogan confirms his durability in Turkey’s politics by taking 52.1 per cent of the votes cast in the presidential polls held on May 28th. This share of votes is enough for Mr Erdogan to reclaim Turkey’s presidential chair for another five years. Mr Erdogan’s undesirable victory will take Turkey deeper into authoritarianism and arrogance.

The victory is great for Mr Erdogan, not for Kemal Kilicdaroglu, 74, Mr Erdogan’s principal opponent. He can take consolation from having come close to winning. Having won a 47.9 per cent vote share, he will continue to be Mr Erdogan’s troublesome rival. However, this is Turkey’s ‘Squander Moment’. Mr Erdogan, who had Turkey under his thumb for two decades, is a proven despot. Turkey’s chances of reverting to absolute democracy have receded further. https://www.wionews.com/photos/india-china-congratulates- erdogan-on-his-historic-win-597814/#indian-pm-congratulates- erdogan-597805

Deception Lost on Turkey

All despots need the cloak of nationalism. Mr Erdogan is no exception. As the news of his win streamed in, Mr Erdogan prefaced his victory speech with notes of nationalism and integrity. He went on to claim deceptively that Turkey was the real winner. Unfortunately, much of this deception was lost on Turkey and its oppressed citizenry, who failed to realise they had just frittered away their best chance to restore democracy.

Without doubt, the just-concluded election was Turkey’s best opportunity to pack Mr Erdogan off. It was Turkish voters’ greatest chance for many reasons. One, as many as half a dozen anti-Erdogan parties had come together after unanimously agreeing on total reforms. Two, they had agreed on Mr Daroglu as their mutually-acceptable presidential candidate. The bonus is Mr Daroglu, the former civil servant, is a champion of democracy and secularism. https://www.npr.org/2023/05/03/1172704065/turkey- election-candidate-kemal-kilicsdaroglu-erdogan-challenger

Video Courtesy: YouTube/Sky News

No Qualms about Polarising

By electing Mr Erdogan, the Turkish voters have forfeited their chance to put their economy back on rails. Under Mr Erdogan, the economy had turned sick. His quixotic economic policies had fuelled inflation, which hit a dizzying high of 86 per cent. Precipitating the crisis, the twin earthquakes dealt a mortal economic blow on Turkey’s economy. The blow was made more severe by inferior construction, poor disaster response and rampant corruption. https://poliphoon.com/the-earthquake-and-the-end-of-elections/

More worrisome is the fact that Mr Erdogan’s divisive policies and anti-democratic strategies are behind his win. Mr Erdogan used the same strategies that helped him win poll after poll. He had no qualms about polarising his people and igniting divisive wars with their ugly roots in cultural and religious differences. He has cruised to victory by maligning Turkey’s opposition parties as anti-nationals. In fact, this Erdogan win is democracy’s defeat. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-65743031

Bad Luck for Mr Kilicdaroglu

Painting Mr Kilicdaroglu as a separatist, Mr Erdogan tried to slip into the shoes of a nationalist. For evidence, he pointed fingers at Mr Kilicdaroglu’s supporters in the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Worse, he aired this claim with fake news and fabricated videos. Democracy was under his thumb as salivating media aided is anti-democratic designs. When Mr Erdogan wins a re-election by dubious strategies, the future is scarier.

Bad luck for Mr Kilicdaroglu, and good luck for Mr Erdogan, the former was far from being media-savvy. He showed up on social media and select channels rarely. His simpleton videos were bland and unsensational. His last-ditch attempt to woo the far right by promising to expel Turkey’s refugees boomeranged. Thus, in effect, Mr Kilicdaroglu’s defeat became Mr Erdogan’s win by default. This explains why Mr Erdogan could win with just a slender lead of 4.2 per cent over his democratic and secular rival Daroglu. Hardly, this can be called Mr Erdogan’s victory with a popular mandate? for https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-65309688

The Future is Scarier Now

Yet, Mr Erdogan’s win is letting the cat among the pigeons of democracy. His victory has negated the hopes of creating an antidote for an autocratic one-man rule. With Mr Erdogan back in the hot seat, hopes of freedom have been dashed to the ground for Turkey’s political detainees. Democratic institutions – the parliament, the central bank, the judiciary and even the election authority – have to forget becoming free from presidential interference. https://poliphoon.com/recep-erdogans-recipe-for-disaster/

Already, these institutions are not free, to an extent, under Mr Erdogan. Under his instructions, the central bank has been propping up the Turkish lira by continuously selling American dollar reserves. This move has been responsible for lira getting overvalued, despite logging a five-year loss of more than 75 per cent against the US dollar. The future is frightening now. Turkey’s forex reserves are sure to sink deeper into the negative and the lira is sure to come under greater stress. https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/turkey-cenbanks- net-forex-reserves-negative-first-time-since-2002-2023-05-25/

This is Sheer Bunkum

Mr Erdogan is unfazed. He is projecting himself as a do-gooder by hinting this will be his last term. This is sheer bunkum if his own 2017 constitutional amendment is any indication. The legerdemain allows a second-term president to seek a third term, if Turkey’s parliament decides on a snap poll before his term ends. The wily Erdogan will not let this loophole remain unused, as his Justice and Development Party-led coalition has 323 of the 600 seats. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from- chaos/2017/04/13/the-turkish-constitutional-referendum- explained/

In Conclusion

As Mr Erdogan is still in his sixties, Turkey and its 85 million people seem doomed to decay in a dictatorial regime. Expect Mr Erdogan to occupy his presidential palace in Ankara at least for another 25 years. The son of a ferry captain is set to skipper Turkey well into the 2040s, his health permitting. Mr Erdogan will use his time now at the top to consolidate his power, prolong his one-man rule and tighten his hold further. Turkey’s opportunity is truly gone for good.