On Sunday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was officially declared the winner in Turkey’s presidential election by earning more than 50 percent of the vote, putting him back in office again.
The victory of Erdogan, backed by the Justice and Development Party (AK) was announced by the country’s Highest Electoral Council on Sunday. AK formed a coalition with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to secure Erdogan’s win.
The win also makes Erdogan the first Turkish leader under Turkey’s new constitutional presidential system, which strengthens the presidential powers and abolishes the post of prime minister.
The changes in the government system were approved under a referendum held last year. The presidential system gives the president more power by allowing him to impose a state of emergency, elect government’s officials without any consultation and intervene in the legal system.
“In this new system, the parliament is only there to make it look like a democracy. Most of the powers are now with the president, with Erdogan. It’s a bespoke system designed to suit Erdogan’s personal aspirations,” said Ibrahim Dogus, director of London-based Centre for Turkey Studies.
The 64-year-old incumbent has ruled Turkey for the last 15 years, both as prime minister (from 2003 to 2014) and president (from 2014 to now).
As of June 25, 2018, around 97.7 percent of the total vote had been counted. AKP also won the largest control of parliament by earning 45 percent of the vote. The official results will be announced on Friday, June 29,2018.
A Blow to Democracy?
Erdogan’s winning has divided the nation and the world as well. Many working-class Turks celebrate Erdogan as a figure who is succeeding in transforming the country’s economy by focusing on developing vital infrastructures such as roads, schools and hospital.
But for pro-democracy activists, Erdogan resuming power is an increasing and threatening concentration of powers. They accuse the incumbent of stifling democracy and press freedoms. Erdogan sent several activists and political opponents to jail following a failed coup attempt in 2016. Last March, an Erdogan-affiliated business, Demiroren Holding, acquired Dogan Holding, the country’s largest alternative media firm that operates CNN Turks, Hurriyet newspaper and the Dogan news agency for $890 million.
“With this huge takeover, including Hürriyet, Turkish mass media industry comes under the direct political control of President Erdoğan,” Kadri Gürsel, a veteran journalist who was freed from prison pending trial over his work, said on his Twitter account.
Erdogan Says Otherwise
After the result was announced, Erdogan thanked his supporters and shared an appreciation for the Turkish people’s participation in the vote, given voter turnout stood at 87 percent.
“Our democracy has won, the people’s will has won, Turkey has won,” Erdogan told cheering supporters in the country’s capital Ankara.
What’s Next for Turkey and the World?
The new administration is expected to prioritize economic reforms, budgetary discipline and to ascertain the central bank’s independence to provide security to investors, as Erdogan’s chief economic adviser Cemil Ertem explained to Reuters. The Turkish Lira is also facing depreciation and has slid 20 percent since January. Many investors fear that Erdogan will force the central bank to slash borrowing costs to boost growth amid double-digit inflation.
Other concerns voiced around the world are over Turkey’s human rights record, involvement in Syria, the uncertainty of Turkey’s NATO future and their potential path to European Union (EU) membership.
Turkey’s military involvement in Syria will likely continue (despite being limited by the presence of Iran and Russia in the war-torn country). In Erdogan’s speech, he promised to “liberate Syria’s land” so refugees can return to their home countries safely. Turkey is home to 3.5 million Syrian refugees, data from The Brooking Institute showed.
The EU Stays Quiet
At EU headquarters in Brussels, there was a cautious reaction to Erdogan’s victory. The EU is facing a dilemma in dealing with Turkey. If it blocks Turkey’s membership, the organization will violate its principles by ignoring a country which is striving for democracy. But if it accepts Turkey, the 28-nation bloc will have to deal with Turkey’s alleged opposition to the EU values, like freedom of the press.
Many experts are doubtful Turkey will be accepted into the EU. Prominent Turkish writer Nedim Gursel stated remarked that Turkey keeps breaking EU rules and has no respect for the bloc’s values.
“Every day, Turkey is further and further away from meeting EU regulations… Turkey can’t be in the EU as it doesn’t respect EU rules,” he said.
However, he added that Turkey has a “card to play with the Syrian refugees.”