With Erdogan’s re-election, one can expect a Turkey-centered, nationalistic period

With Erdogan’s re-election, one can expect a Turkey-centered, nationalistic period

Turkish voters chose Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday as their first executive president to govern the country with enhanced executive powers under a new constitution and revamped political system with few checks and balances. 

The country’s longest-serving leader who has won 12 elections over the past 16 years, Erdogan had 53 percent of the votes against his four rivals in the presidential and parliamentary elections. He will now rule under a new system in which the role of prime minister is abolished and the president has unprecedented authority. 

His main and closest rival Muharrem Ince, the candidate of the secular main opposition CHP, got 31 percent of the votes from people who hoped for a political sea-change. 

The competitive but unfair election campaign process was mainly overshadowed by the popular criticism that the race was conducted against those who used governmental powers and the media support with newspapers and TV channels mostly owned by pro-government groups.

However, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which won 42.5 percent of the votes, failed to win a parliamentary majority. 

“We took the message that you sent to the party,” Erdogan said during his victory speech. “We will fix all the problems.”

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) managed to get 11 percent of the votes and passed the threshold to be back in Parliament. 

According to Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara director of German Marshall Fund of the United States, it was not the campaign performance of Erdogan or underperformance of his opponents that created the result. 

“Erdogan won his victory due to polarization that prevented his main opponent, Muharrem Ince, from attracting conservative votes, to his emotional bond to his voters which kept them with him despite the economic downturn, and to his practical monopoly over the media which prevented his competitors from getting their message across,” he told Arab News. 

At a time when Erdogan and his government are drawing harsh criticism from the international community in terms of the downward course of democratic rights in the country and foreign policy disagreements with Western allies, his next steps under the one-man regime will be determinant for the country’s international position. 

Unluhisarcikli thinks that AKP now needs the continued support of its alliance partner Nationalist Action Party (MHP) for a majority in the Parliament. The combined AKP-MHP parliamentary power is about 53.6 percent. 

“Erdogan probably owes his first-round win to the nationalist party as well. This may mean that he may make concessions to some demands of this party on both foreign and domestic policy,” he added.

The Turkish military still conducts airstrikes against the Kurdish PKK bases in the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq as a military move that also consolidates nationalistic ambitions. 

Menekse Tokyay

The new period after the election results is therefore expected to be more Turkey-centered and nationalistic, with a more favorable ground for Russia to pull Ankara on its side against its transatlantic alliances with the US and NATO, especially at a time when Turkey wants to buy F-35 jets from the US and some lawmakers allegedly intend to block the sale. 

The expected nationalistic discourse of AKP-MHP coalition in Parliament can also result in Turkey’s cross-border moves against Kurdish militants in Syria and Iraq, and create a new fault line between Ankara and Washington over the latter’s support for the Kurds of the region.

The Turkish military still conducts airstrikes against the Kurdish PKK bases in the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq as a military move that also consolidates nationalistic ambitions. 

According to Paul Levin, director of Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies, Turkey’s international position will remain the same in the medium to long term. 

“The perceived Kurdish threat in Syria remains, as do the reasons for conflict with the United States. And as Turkey’s democratic credentials deteriorate further, relations with the EU will remain strained, even as the two neighbors will continue to need to collaborate on issues like migration and counterterrorism,” he told Arab News.

Turkey’s next election round will be in March of next year with local elections. 

“So domestically there is still a political horizon that Erdogan has to take into account. The big cloud that hangs over his victory today is the threat of a hard landing for the Turkish economy,” Levin noted. 

The lira’s downward slide and the serious troubles Turkish companies who borrowed heavily in dollars and euros have in repaying debts, as well as inflation running at 18 percent, will dominate the economic agenda of the country in the coming period.

The international community will be also watching Erdogan closely to see if the electoral promise of lifting the state of emergency will be kept.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view