Erdoğan Wins Yet Again

Stakes and Turkiye

A hundred years ago, in 1923, the Peace Treaty of Lausanne was signed, paving the way for the international recognition of the sovereignty of the new Republic of Turkey as a successor state to the Ottoman Empire.  Nearly a century later, an alliance of opposition parties, led by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) representative, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, attempted to dethrone an increasingly weakening single party by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.  The first round of Presidential elections were held on May 14, 2023, resulting in an inconclusive majority, leading to a second round, held on May 28.

Of the sixty-four million eligible voters who went to the polls, nearly six million of them were first-time voters who have known no other President, and nearly three million of them were those living abroad. These voters not only voted for a President under the reformed Presidential system, but also voted for six hundred parliamentary members. Polls had shown Kılıçdaroğlu either favored to win or with a minor edge in popularity. But the reliability of polls were again put into question, as Erdoğan pulled a surprise win and won 49.7% of the votes in the first round.  

Erdoğan has been known to surprise pundits before, and has been successful at winning elections against all odds, by relying on a large base of voters from the smaller towns, outside the traditional big city power bases of Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir.  Oddly enough, the voters from these towns still decided to throw their support behind Erdoğan despite the fact that only a mere three months prior, an earthquake devastated their towns.  This and other second-round endorsements such as that of the ultra-nationalist Sinan Oğan, further helped Erdoğan seal the surprise victory of the 2023 Turkish Presidential elections with 52% of the votes.


Mister Not-So-Invincible

Yet, Erdoğan’s win also revealed a curious crack to his image of invincibility.  The opposition alliance proved that Erdoğan’s popularity was clearly waning, as he was forced to go to a second round  the first time this has happened since he first came to power in 2002.  

The election also showed that Democracy was still alive in Türkiye, with checks and balances and a high voter turnout   84%  that allowed for free elections to take place.  International observers were also quick to note that even though it was a free election, it was still an unfair one.  Whether Erdoğan would use his win to backslide on the very checks and balances that allowed him to legitimately win the election is yet to be seen.  Having already amended the Turkish Constitution in his favor in the past - such as with the Turkish Constitutional Reforms of 2017 - a further constitutional reform would not be without precedent.  

But for a large portion of the disillusioned youth, to wait and see is not a risk worth taking.  Many have already decided to leave their country and take part in a new wave of Brain Drain that will likely be triggered following Erdoğan’s win, with Western Europe as a possible destination.  What exact impact this will have on the West and Türkiye remains to be seen.


Mister Stability

What is sure, however, is that the West believes it dodged a bullet  an Enlargement bullet. Now that Erdoğan has cemented a possible third decade in power, it effectively puts to bed the discussions on the possibility of Türkiye joining the EU, and the bloc’s enlargement plans.  It also allows the West and the EU to put further pressure on Türkiye as a NATO ally to accept Swedish candidacy.  

On the International Relations front, under Erdoğan, Türkiye is expected to continue playing a major role in international affairs, such as it did with the Black Sea grain deal between Russia and Ukraine.  It will be expected to continue managing competing geopolitical interests to its own advantage, such as weaponizing the refugee crisis, or by cosying up to Russia while maintaining a transactional relationship with the United States.

What is less clear is how he will tackle the cost-of-living, inflation, and weakening currency crises.  With a quickly depleting Central Bank reserve, Erdoğan will not have a lot of choice at his disposal but to veer away from his unorthodox monetary policies and allow for an increase of interest rates.  He might even resort to print more money, but at a real risk of hyperinflation.  Whether that would help him to find the estimated one billion euros he needs for reconstruction efforts following the devastating February earthquakes is quite unlikely.


What Next for Türkiye

The Turkish people, for better or for  worse, have clearly given a vote of confidence to Erdoğan and his management of the country’s economy.  But the confidence is not as foolproof as in the past, bringing hope to the opposition and their future efforts for a more democratic Türkiye.  

Now that the election is over, the opposition have to learn from their mistakes, and double down their efforts to provide a real economic alternative, as well as offer a real International Relations vision.  Some opposition leaders like Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu have already signaled that they will continue the resistance and call for a democratic change. 

The next opportunity for them will be the local elections in 2024. And until then, the rest of the world will have no choice but to come to terms with a bitter truth  that Erdoğan has won yet again.    



  1. Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs 
  2., Turkish Citizens Abroad Cast Ballots in Erdogan's First-ever Runoff Election
  3. Erdogan Is Facing His Biggest Test—Even If He Loses Turkey's Election 
  4. Erdoğan leads the way into 2nd-round clash as rival disappoints in Turkish election 
  5. Erdogan Secures Endorsement of Former Rival for President 
  6. Erdogan's victory could be fateful for Turkey's democracy and role in the world 
  7. Erdogan victory set to trigger a new Turkish brain drain 
  8. First-time voters may have decisive say in Turkish election 
  9. Ukraine Black Sea grain export deal extended, UN and Turkey say
  10. Recovery and Reconstruction after the 2023 Earthquakes in Türkiye UNDP offer and proposed projects 


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June 01 2023

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