Alwaght- With the release of the Turkish run-off election results, the case of the important and controversial presidential election was closed in favor of the Recep Tayyip Erdogan after months of breathtaking competition between the president and his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Erdogan will retain the power for the next five years. With this victory, which few people predicted until recently, Erdogan showed that he is an unending figure and a man for all seasons in Turkish politics.
However, despite the fact that Erdogan and his supporters view the presidential and parliamentary victories as triumphs and a sign that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is invincible in grand competitions, certainly the president and AKP leaders are well aware of the foundations of their party growing shaky and their social supporter base growing eroded, and the recent election was a wake-up call and an alert about possible collapse of Erdogan.
There are few examples of political leaders who have shown different faces during the leadership of Turkey like Erdogan. At one time seeking peace inside and outside and at another time cracking down on all rivals, at times a strong supporter of the oppressed and a defender of the Palestinians and at one time an intimate friend of the Israelis, at one time a great economic reformer and at another time leading anti-development policies, at one time an avenger of Khashoggi, and at another time embracer of Khashoggi's killer. These conflicting behaviors have made from him an unpredictable figure who can always be expected to surprise others.
Now that Erdogan was elected for another 5-year period as president of an influential country in the international community, a question presents itself: Will he continue his past years policies regardless of his hard-won victory in the elections, or should we expect changes to his vision and policy in response to growing criticism especially against the government's performance in economy and living conditions?
Why did not Erdogan lose?
Getting an answer to this question at first place requires an investigation of why the voters trusted Erdogan and his party again and also the conditions that allowed him to survive a collapse.
Erdogan’s victory and also victory of his party with a lower rate came against almost a majority of the polls that gave the lead to the opposition. Still, Erdogan and his party made a surprise and in the first round, to a large extent, it became clear that we should see Erdogan in power for the next five years. This raised a question for the observers as why the Turkish public once again picked Erdogan and he actually did not lose the race. Some believe that in economic policies, which were the main part of the heated debates between the ruling party and the opposition, Klichdaroglu failed to convince the voters that he can revive the economy.
Turkish central bank, which has largely lost its independence over the past few years, is following a very unorthodox monetary policy under Erdogan's influence. While its peers raised interest rates to curb inflation, Turkey's central bank made several interest rate cuts, pushing the rate down to 8.5 percent. Many blame Erdogan's unorthodox economic theory, which argues that higher interest rates lead to higher inflation, for the skyrocketing inflation that reached 85.5 percent later last year. Still, the inflation fell back to below 45 percent in April, encouraging Erdogan to maneuver on his economic prescription that both avoids austerity measures and targets gradual inflation reduction. Meanwhile, the government's considerable pay rises was not uninfluential. Later last year, the minimum wage in Turkey was increased by 54.5 percent to be implemented in the first half of 2023, and with the current increase due in July 1, the total salary will increase by 85 percent compared to last year, which is satisfactory to the state employees and pensioners.
But perhaps what restored public confidence, though shakily, to Erdogan is his rich record of transformation of the face of Turkey to a modern country and an economic power at a regional level and also the growth the national economic and living conditions underwent under him and AKP. Actually, when the Turkish people had to choose between Kilicdaroglu promises of patching things up and Erdogan who was already in the heart of the administration, they choose experience over unfounded promises. Erdogan owes his victory more than any other thing to his bright past record and the opposition inability to garner maximum public confidence.
Erdogan’s hard job ahead
With this electoral ground, Erdogan and his party, certainly, should seek to revive the bright performance of their first decade in rule from 2000 to 2010, namely the period whose profit Erdogan is still reaping. In fact, he has very well felt the danger that this is his last chance to respond to voter confidence in him.
The brilliant years of Erdogan's economic performance took place at a time when in foreign policy zero tensions with neighbors and a balanced policy of relations with East and West was followed and the government focused on attracting foreign investments and developing large infrastructure projects and taking advantage of Turkey's unique geopolitical position in connection of the East and the West to turn the country into a regional energy and transit hub.
Over the past year, Erdogan has shown he is taking steps towards de-escalation policy with neighbors and regional states, especially with Arab countries, to attract Arab investments. But whether or not Erdogan will manage to regain the glory of the past decade in the totally transformed regional and international atmosphere is an outlook whose realization is never easy.
Internally, Erdogan further moved to bonds with nationalists and this brought him relative victory against Kilicdaroglu. This means that we should expect highly dim outlook for peace with the Kurds and the moderates. Regionally, the Arab states have managed to overcome part of the contentious cases in the Arab world, mainly Qatar and Syria, and this curtails Turkey's power to maneuver in the Arab world compared to the past, and Erdogan's push to maintain military adventures in Syria and Libya will face more challenges. Additionally, Arab countries, due to the financial crisis caused by coronavirus outbreak and the volatile international economic conditions because of Ukraine war, are striving for strengthening pillars of their non-oil economy and days of major foreign investments of them have gone. Internationally, it would be hard for Turkey to maintain both the East and the West fronts, and amid burgeoning Cold War between the West and Russia, pursuing warm relations with both sides looks unlikely, and any choice will have its own prices.