Erdogan Remains in Control // With the Turkish elections over, who wins?

Standing at the bridge between Europe and Asia, Turkey has always had a prominent place in world politics. Over the past few years, that has remained true, with Turkey involved in the politics and conflicts of the Middle East, the influx of migrants into Europe, and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, among other issues.

Turkey’s actions in regard to all of these things have been dependent on one man, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who came to power in the role of prime minister, as the head of the Islamic-oriented AK (Justice and Development) Party, in 2003. In 2014, he transitioned into the role of president and subordinated the prime minister, and in 2018, Turkey transitioned to a presidential system, essentially installing Erdogan as the sole leader of the country.

On Sunday, in a runoff election, Erdogan once again won the position of president, extending his rule over the country into the start of its third decade.

But he nearly didn’t triumph, with a campaign that brought a rival the closest in years to unseating Erdogan. What does the Turkish election mean? Does the close race change anything?

A secular rival

The revolution that the AK Party and Erdogan made in the early 2000s was to reverse the long-standing ultra-secularism of modern Turkey, established under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s and 1930s. While Turkey still remains more liberal and modern than many other countries in the Middle East, Erdogan challenged the idea that the country was better as secular.

His rival in this election, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, partly represented the other angle on Turkey, the more secular one. But he actually moved his party away from its Kemalist history and towards a more conservative and nationalist line, trying to cut into the base that supported Erdogan. He argued for expelling millions of Syrian refugees, something that appealed to Turkish masses but sent chills down the spines of those refugees.

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