Turkish election victory for Erdogan leaves nation divided
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s supporters are celebrating after Turkey’s long-term president won Sunday’s vote, getting an additional five years in power.
“The entire nation of 85 million won,” he told cheering crowds outside his enormous palace on the edge of Ankara.
However, his call for solidarity sounded hollow as he mocked his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu – and took aim at a jailed Kurdish leader and the LGBT community.
The opposition leader denounced “the most unfair election in recent years”.
Mr. Erdogan poured scorn on the principal resistance’s increase in its number of MPs in the parliamentary vote fourteen days earlier. The genuine number had fallen to 129, he said, because the party had handed over dozens of seats to its allies.
He also condemned the opposition alliance’s pro-LGBT policies, which he said were in contrast with his own focus on families.
The run-up to the vote had become increasingly rancorous and in one incident late on Sunday, an opposition Good party official was fatally stabbed in front of a party office in the northern coastal town of Ordu.
The motive for Erhan Kurt’s killing was not clear, but a leading opposition official blamed youths celebrating the election result.
Although the final results were not confirmed, the Supreme Election Council said there was no doubt who had won.
It is highly unusual for the palace complex to be opened to the public – but so was this result, extending his period in power to a quarter of a century.
Supporters came from all over Ankara to taste the victory. There were Islamic chants, while some laid Turkish flags on the grass to pray.
For a night, Turkey’s economic crisis was forgotten. One supporter, Seyhan, said it was all a lie: “Nobody is hungry. We are very happy with his economic policies. He will do even better in the next five years.”
But the president admitted that tackling inflation was Turkey’s most urgent issue.
The question is whether he is prepared to take the necessary measures to do so. At an annual rate of almost 44%, inflation seeps into everyone’s lives.
The cost of food, rent, and other everyday goods has soared, exacerbated by Mr. Erdogan’s refusal to observe orthodox economic policy and raise interest rates.
The Turkish lira has hit record lows against the dollar and the central bank has struggled to meet surging demand for foreign currency.
“If they continue with low-interest rates, as Erdogan has signaled, the only other option is stricter capital controls,” warns Selva Demiralp, professor of economics at Koc University in Istanbul.
Mr Kilicdaroglu said the president’s political party had mobilized all the means of the state against him and he did not explicitly admit defeat.
President Erdogan ended with just over 52% of the vote, based on near-complete unofficial results. Almost half the electorate in this deeply polarised country did not back his authoritarian vision of Turkey.
Ultimately, Mr. Kilicdaroglu was no match for the well-drilled Erdogan campaign, even if he took the president to a run-off second round for the first time since the post was made directly elected in 2014.
But he barely dented his rival’s first-round lead, falling more than two million votes behind.
The president made the most of his victory, with an initial speech to supporters atop a bus in Turkey’s biggest city, Istanbul, followed after dark by a balcony address from his palace to an adoring crowd that he numbered at 320,000 people.
“It is not just us who won, Turkey won,” he declared, calling it one of the most important elections in Turkish history.
He taunted his opponent’s defeat with the words “Bye, bye, Kemal” – a chant that was also taken up by his supporters in Ankara.