ANKARA: President Tayyip Erdogan’s election victory showed the magnetic hold he still has over millions of Turks after 20 years in power, with many believing he is the man best placed to fix problems which critics say are partly of his own making.
Hundreds of thousands of flag-waving supporters celebrated into the night, illustrating the enthusiasm that Erdogan and his Islamist-inspired politics generate among his fans, despite economic hardships which many thought would prompt his defeat.
“The victory is ours, how happy it is for us. Bye-bye, Mr Kemal. Thank God, Islam has won,” said an Erdogan supporter who gave his name as Banu, referring to the opposition’s Kemal Kilicdaroglu who was defeated on Sunday.
“Today is our happy day. Our President has won. I feel like I’m going on a pilgrimage to Mecca,” added another, Omer, among the thousands of people gathered at the presidential palace in Ankara.
Hundreds of thousands of flag-waving supporters celebrate his victory
The result renewed the mandate of a leader who has brought far-reaching changes to Turkiye, shaping a traditionally secular state according to his pious vision while amassing ever more power in his hands and asserting influence on the global stage. A veteran of a dozen electoral wins and a skilled orator, Erdogan prevailed after deploying both conservative and nationalist rhetoric in withering attacks on Kilicdaroglu.
Appealing to his conservative Muslim voter base, he repeatedly described the opposition as being pro-LGBT during his election rallies.
He also alleged that Kilicdaroglu had ties to the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is viewed with hostility by many Turks because of a deadly insurgency it has been waging since 1984. Kilicdaroglu called the claim slanderous.
But for Erdogan, the sloganeering helped deflect attention from economic troubles, including a cost-of-living crisis which critics have largely blamed on his unorthodox economic policies of cutting interest rates in the face of soaring inflation.
Erdogan won with 52.1 per cent support compared to 47.9pc for Kilicdaroglu, pointing to a deeply divided nation.
Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2023