There is some good news for strongmen leaders across the world — one of their own, a great exemplar of hardcore culturally and religious conservative values stormed to power, yet again. Not new to power, the 69-year-old Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has ruled Turkey (now rechristened Turkiye), for over 20 years now, has transformed his country in the image of his own political values, and global opinion aside, the people in his country still back him strongly.
His rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, older than the long incumbent ruler by five years, has accepted the mandate, paving way for another term for Mr Erdogan. Mr Kilicdaroglu secured 47.9 per cent of votes in the closely contested elections in a nation that was deeply divided, but Erdogan took over 52.1 per cent and won. But the polls swung after a third fringe candidate, Sinan Ogan endorsed President Erdogan, after his ultra-nationalist right wing campaign managed to unexpectedly win 5.2 per cent.
While Kilicdaroglu dubbed the polls “the most unfair of elections in years”, Erdogan said in his victory speech that “the only winner is Turkey. I thank the people who gave us the responsibility to govern the country for five more years.”
With this win, Erdogan has become the leader with the longest tenure since the founder of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who established the country from the ruins of the Ottoman empire.
As the campaign augmented the bitterness of a deep political divide and furthered the strong differences of the two main parties, and candidates, Erdogan’s strongly Islamist-rooted Justice and Development (AK) Party appealed to people with conservative nationalist rhetoric, whereas Kilicdaroglu initially tried to highlight the failures of the government on the economic front, the steep inflation and the failure of Erdogan in helping people after a massive earthquake struck the nation earlier this year.
But as several global political watchers and analysts noted, after early days into the campaign, Kilicdaroglu also took a steep right turn, promising voters to throw away war-impacted refugees from Syria out of the country. The election soon was between two main, and one fringe, right wing candidates, and Mr Erdogan won.
Reaching out to deep emotions with his personal charisma, President Erdogan, who has been steadfast in dismantling the secular values of the founding father, spoke of reshaping the future as the century of Turkey, and fought on the slogan, ‘One nation, one flag, one motherland, one state.’ And unsaid, it implied, one supreme leader.
The result has a huge impact not only on Turkey, but also all round the world in several ways, including the Nato and European Union. As a Nato member, Turkey would want to be taken into the European Union, but the EU continues to hold the decision back over issues like falterning democracy, denial of fundamental rights, authoritarian rule and absence of a strong rule of law. In his campaign, President Erdogan unabashedly targeted the LQBT community in the name of sacred family values.
But after winning the elections, which were welcomed by global leaders, with US President Joe Biden, Russian strongman Putin, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, among others, congratulating him and promising to work together and further build cooperation, Mr Erdogan now faces the challenge of rebuilding a nation with a fragile economy and politically divided society.