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Turkish Presidential Election Continues with Run-Off Vote, Erdogan’s Third Term Hangs in Balance

by Thaabit Kamaar
Photo by [BBC]

Following Sunday’s general election, where no definitive victor emerged, the Turkish presidential election will continue with a run-off ballot in under a fortnight. On May 28, Turkish citizens will return to the polls for a second voting round to determine whether Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the incumbent Turkish President, will continue to govern the nation for a third term.

According to reports, the general election held on Sunday witnessed significant voter participation of 88.8%. President Erdogan secured approximately 49.51% of the votes, while his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu received around 44.88%.

Even though there is a clear advantage in favour of President Erdogan, it was less than the 50%, or above, needed to take him over the line. Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Global Dialogue said we are witnessing intense competition between two ideologies and ruling blocks in Turkey.

“On the one hand, you have Erdogan, who is part of the broader Muslim party, who has been ruling for the last 20 years and has made a significant impact on the state and society. Then, on the other hand, you also have what is called the secular social-democratic block. This block is much more western looking, and therefore, the contest is quite sharp.”

Two Decades Too Long?

President Erdogan has been at the helm of Turkish politics for two decades, first as Prime Minister and then as President. The length of his tenure and controversial actions and decisions therein has some media outlets label him “as a dictator in all but name.”

According to Patel, President Erdogan’s long-term tenure has significantly impacted Turkey’s state and civil society. Due to this impact and promotion of a more neoliberal and Islamic culture, it would take much effort for the opposition, if they are triumphant, to implement any social changes.

“There will be cosmetic changes, but substantively the state will continue as it has been for the last several decades. As long as this enables an environment for capitalism and profit accumulation … They’ll be happy with it. I don’t see any substantive changes. Let’s say, for instance, the opposition wins, you may get more relaxation around freedom of expression or the media or the right to organise etc. But I think the underlying superstructure will continue to operate.”

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Stances on Russia/Ukraine Conflict

Recently, President Erdogan was criticised for his stances on the ongoing Russia/Ukraine conflict. Unlike other fellow NATO states who have chosen to condemn and sanction Russia for its aggression in Ukraine, Turkey has positioned itself as neutral.

Patel said, this neutrality in the conflict is to preserve and ensure Turkey’s national, social and economic interests are maintained with their Western and Eastern partners.

“Turkey is a NATO member formally, so it subscribes to the NATO ethos and laws, but it also has its own independent foreign policy … Turkey’s first interest is the national interest. As a result, the state and the elite would ensure that whichever block they participate in, whether it’s in the EU or in NATO or in the Eurasian economic Forum with Russia and China or Ukraine, they will ensure that Turkish interests come first.”


Watch the full discussion here.

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