Friday, May 24, 2024

Erdogan prevails in Turkish election

(BBC News) Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s supporters celebrated well into the night after Turkey’s long-time president secured another five years in power.

“The entire nation of 85 million won,” he told cheering crowds outside his palace on the edge of Ankara.

But his call for unity sounded hollow as he ridiculed his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu – and took aim at a jailed Kurdish leader and pro-LGBT policies.

The opposition leader did not explicitly concede victory.

Complaining of “the most unfair election in recent years,” Kilicdaroglu said the president’s political party had mobilized all the means of the state against him.

President Erdogan ended with just over 52% of the vote based on near-complete unofficial results.

Kilicdaroglu 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 estimated at 320,000.

“It is not just us who won; Turkey won,” he said, calling it one of the most important elections in Turkish history.

He taunted his opponent’s defeat with the words “Bye, bye, bye, Kemal,” a chant that was taken up by his supporters in Ankara.

Erdogan poured scorn on the main opposition party’s increase in its number of MPs in the parliament vote two weeks before. The true 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 was in contrast with his own focus on families.

Although the final results are 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, and some laid Turkish flags on the grass to pray.

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 Erdogan’s refusal to observe orthodox economic policy and raise interest rates.

The Turkish lira has hit record lows against the U.S. dollar, and the central bank has struggled to meet surging demand for foreign currency.

“If they continue with low interest rates, as Erdogan has signalled, the only other option is stricter capital controls,” said Selva Demiralp, professor of economics at Koc university in Istanbul.

Economics seemed far from the minds of Erdogan supporters, who spoke of their pride at his powerful position in the world and his hard line on fighting “terrorists”, by which they meant Kurdish militants.

Erdogan has accused his opposite number of siding with terrorists, and criticized him for promising to free a former co-leader of Turkey’s second largest opposition party, the pro-Kurdish HDP.

Selahattin Demirtas has been languishing in jail since 2016, despite the European Court of Human Rights ordering his release.

Erdogan said while he was in power, Demirtas would stay behind bars.

He also promised to prioritize rebuilding in areas hit by February’s twin earthquakes, and bring about the “voluntary” return of one million Syrian refugees.

Since a failed coup in 2016, Erdogan has abolished the post of prime minister and gained extensive powers, which his opponent had pledged to roll back.

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