After Erdogan’s victory in Turkey, a new era of uncertainty

A short statement – just six minutes – thanked his supporters and expressed “deep sorrow at the still greater difficulties that await the country”. His Republican People’s Party (CHP) seat in Istanbul quickly vacated Sunday evening when opponent Kemal Kilicadoglu read his defeat speech. “All I see for the future is darkness. A future where nothing can be certain anymore,” worries 32-year-old Serhat Arslan after Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s new victory.

The head of state, who has been in power for more than two decades, won 52% of the vote on Sunday. “This has been going on for a long time,” sighed Özgün, another opposition voter. “I have a feeling that half of the country is not living in the same reality as us. I’m afraid…everything is going to get worse.”

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The immediate concern is the economy. Stripped of all independence, the central bank drained its foreign exchange reserves ahead of the election to stem the fall of Turkey’s currency, the pound. Its stocks are in the red, the first time since 2002.

Anticipating a currency shock and protecting their savings, many Turks lined up outside exchange offices to buy currency in the weeks before the election. There are fears that the central bank will no longer be able to support the pound, and its fall will undoubtedly lead to a new surge in inflation. These fears are even more justified since Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised during his campaign that he would not back down on the policy of cutting key rates, instead calling for rate hikes to reduce economic orthodoxy inflation.

“Without checks and balances” rule

“From an economic point of view, I am very pessimistic,” says Oguz, 37, who voted for the Turkish president: “Yes, we won on one side, but on the other side we could have lost . . . it was a pyrrhic victory.” Ahmad, who runs a photography studio in Istanbul’s Balat district, wasn’t expecting a miracle. Another voter of Tayyip Erdoğan expects “the time ahead will be very difficult”. “It’s not just Turkey, there are economic problems globally. Erdogan will take action, I’m sure, but will they be effective?”

Opponents of the head of state worry not only about their purchasing power, but also about their freedoms, which have already been significantly curtailed in recent years. “We live in a high presidential regime where everything depends on the will of one man,” recalls 24-year-old student Peren. “Erdogan may want to suppress the opposition altogether. If that happens, like most young people, I will try to leave the country.

read more: Nationalism has already won the election in Turkey in the Erdoğan-Kıldırığlu fight.

Seren Selvin Korkmas shares these dire predictions. “If Erdogan wins again, the institutions will lose any chance of a return to democracy,” a political scientist warned ahead of the election. “Erdogan has built a regime without checks and balances. Justice is being politicized, universities have been brought into line… In spite of everything, there is a form of resistance in the state apparatus, on the part of the bureaucrats who deny this state of affairs. By getting a new mandate, Erdogan will ensure that he takes full control of the institutions,” the researcher said. Seren Selvin Korkmaz also fears that the opposition, which has made several attempts and concessions to present a united front against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will “completely lose hope.”

His colleague Seda Demiralp, a political science professor at Isik University in Istanbul, is less optimistic about the state of democracy and institutions. He cites academic work, notably that of the American political scientist Barbara Geddes, who states that “if a totalitarian power has not changed hands after twenty years, the probability is strong that it will take another fifteen years to see the change”. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled Turkey since March 2003.

The most right-wing parliament in the history of the republic

However, Seda Demiralp wants to believe that the opposition will somehow recover from this defeat. “Perhaps this will be the starting point for a radical change, for a new resistance movement. We see that young people are not satisfied with the current power or the current opposition,” observes this researcher, who studied the case of Malaysia, which had the same party rule for sixty years before being defeated in 2018. A coalition of enemies. “The Turkish opposition has already come a long way in building a broad coalition and against the current polarization. She can learn from her mistakes and move forward.

In the meantime, however, there is little doubt that nationalism and conservatism will continue to rule the country and dominate its political discourse. The May 14 legislative elections resulted in the most right-wing parliament in the history of the republic, which celebrates its centenary this year. Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains in power with a coalition of ultranationalist and Islamist parties.

Read our editorial: In Türkiye, a well-elected dictator

This mix of ethnic (Turkish) and religious nationalism is certainly not new. Turkey has been mired in it for decades. “But it is clear that nationalism will be on the rise in the coming years,” predicted Oguz, a voter for Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). “I think the AKP will not retain Erdogan, but the nationalists will eventually form their own coalition, and a new leader will emerge from this coalition,” says Oguz, who describes the next five years as a “mandate of change.”

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 69, has repeatedly hinted that this term is his last. Meanwhile, he is focusing on his next political objective: recapturing Istanbul and Ankara, two major Turkish cities ruled by the opposition since 2019. Local government elections will be held in ten months.

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