On Sunday, May 28, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won re-election, extending his authority into a third decade in a nation still recovering from the effects of a devastating earthquake that leveled entire cities.
In the presidential runoff on Sunday, two weeks after he just missed winning the election outright in the first round, Erdogan triumphed with more over 52% of the vote. In the second round, the majority of Turkish voters supported him over the rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu, demonstrating their confidence in him as a capable and experienced leader.
Following the results, Erdogan thanked the nation for giving him another five years, saying: “We hope to be worthy of your trust, as we have been for 21 years.” He further ridiculed his opponent, saying ‘Bye Bye Bye Kemal’, adding, “The only winner today is Turkey.”
The result led to Erdogan supporters honking their cars, cheering and gathering in public squares with the leader booming out: “It is not only us who won, it is Turkey. “It is our nation that won with all its elements. It is our democracy.”
The election triumph of Erdogan had many pundits in disbelief; he did so despite a 50% inflation rate in the nation. The government’s response to the devastating earthquakes in February that killed at least 50,000 people has been met with resentment.
According to some commentators, Erdogan might become a more assertive and powerful leader after serving another five years. Since 2003, Erdogan has held positions of leadership in Turkey, first as prime minister and since 2014 as president.
He has strengthened his hold on power through constitutional amendments, undermined the nation’s democratic institutions, such as the court and media, and imprisoned a number of opponents. He has put down anti-government demonstrations and eluded a probe into corruption in his inner circle.
His repression has been so severe that, according to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2022, Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) has significantly worsened Turkey’s human rights record. The nation has been ranked among the top 10 autocratic nations in the world by Sweden’s V-Dem Institute, and in 2018, Freedom House lowered the nation’s status from “partly free” to “not free.”
Erdogan is also rumored to be pushing for a greater Islamic presence in the country. Prior to his election as president, Turkey was adamantly secular, to the point where women were prohibited from donning headscarves in numerous workplaces. But he has gradually steered the country toward a more religious outlook. These parties might exert pressure on his government to adopt more Islamist principles. His administration has increased religious instruction and changed the Hagia Sophia, Turkey’s most well-known historical site, from a museum to a mosque.