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12° Nicosia,
25 May, 2024
 
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Nationalism, the big winner in Turkish elections

Erdogan remains strong despite opposition's efforts

Athanasios Ellis

Athanasios Ellis

He may have failed to get elected in the first round of the Turkish presidential elections, and that is obviously a blow to him, especially given his absolute control over the media, but Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not suffer the defeat that the West had hoped for. Twenty years after his rise to power, he remains strong and a key player in developments in Turkey. The opposition – Kemal Kilicdaroglu personally, but also the six parties that make up the “National Alliance” – did not live up to the expectations that had been created inside and outside of the country.

A motley crew consisting of secular, progressive, social democrat, Kurdish, nationalist, conservative and religious leaders joined forces with their sole common denominator being removing Erdogan from power, and failed to secure either the presidency or a majority in the National Assembly where the People’s Alliance, formed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), secured 46%, which is a drop from the 54% they received cumulatively in the 2018 parliamentary elections, but gives them the majority of seats.

The big winner of the elections is nationalism – with all that this implies for Greek-Turkish relations – as the 36% of the AKP and the 10% of the MHP, along with the 10% of Meral Aksener (a former MHP leading member), make for a clear majority. Also, the third presidential candidate, Sinan Ogan, who got 5% of the vote, is an extreme nationalist. Even the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) approach towards Greece and Cyprus has strong nationalist undertones too.

The loser is the Republican People’s Party (CHP), which over the past 20 years has been consistently unable to get more than a quarter of the vote. How is it possible that it wants to rule the country?

Erdogan is also winning in terms of impressions because despite accusations of manipulation of the media and opinion polls, and reported widespread election fraud, his victory was finally confirmed by both the state-controlled Anadolu Agency and the Anka News Agency, which is close to the opposition. Both showed a clear victory for Erdogan with 49.51% of the vote, versus 44.88% for Kilicdaroglu.

At the same time, the fact that he fell marginally below 50%, a percentage that would have ensured his re-election, differentiates Erdogan from other authoritarian leaders such as China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who are elected with rates as high as 90%. Despite the opposition’s complaints, he can claim that the elections were free, and if he wins the second round, he will present himself before the West with a fresh popular mandate and a majority in the National Assembly.

A final conclusion that can be drawn is that if, instead of 74-year-old Kilicdaroglu, Erdogan’s opponent was one of the popular mayors of Istanbul or Ankara, Ekrem Imamoglu or Mansur Yavas, respectively, maybe the 20-year presence of Turkey’s strongman would have come to an end.

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