Despite an ailing economy and a strong challenge from opposition parties, President Recep Erdogan earned a victory in Turkey’s snap election on Sunday.
With 98 percent of the vote counted, the Turkish Election Council certified Erdogan had carried 52.7 percent of the vote to win a return to office.
Striking a combative tone in a speech after his election victory, Erdogan told supporters:
“We never bow down in front of anyone, except God. You have given a lesson to those who wait for Turkey to kneel. The winner of this election is democracy, the will of the people, each one of our 81 million citizens. We have also taken our lessons from these results. We will stand before our nation by fixing our shortcomings. We will keep our promises.”
A sweeping victory in which a reported 86.82 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, Turkish voters chose Erdogan over five challengers, the closest of which came from Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Muharrem Ince with 30 percent.
Warning Turkish citizens of the perils of Erdogan’s victory in a concession speech, CHP’s Ince said:
“If the official list shows you have been defeated, you have been defeated. I accept the election results. We will all pay the price for this together. This is the exact definition of a one-man regime.”
Originally scheduled for November 2019, Erdogan fast-tracked the elections after the Grand National Assembly of Turkey approved a controversial measure to turn the nation from a parliamentary system into an executive presidency.
While the action was widely criticized as another step toward autocracy, the motion passed in April 2017 after Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party formed a coalition with the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party.
The two parties, dubbed “The People’s Alliance,” later officially merged in February. The endurance of the parties through Sunday’s election cycle is widely believed to have tipped the balance in Erdogan’s favor.
Capturing 53 percent of the parliamentary vote, the People’s Alliance will control 344 seats in a 600 seat legislative body.
Under Turkey’s new “executive president” model, Erdogan will control virtually every lever of government.
The immense new powers granted him in the 2017 referendum he created will permit him to hire and dismiss cabinet ministers, senior civil servants, issue executive decrees under force of law and exercise greater control over judicial appointments.
In power for 15 years, Erdogan campaigned on the vow to life the state of emergency Turkey has lived under since a 2016 attempted coup.
Returned to office, Erdogan faces a slowing economy, strengthened opposition parties, continued trouble in the region and ongoing conflicts in Syria and with the Kurdish people.
[Hurriyet Daily News] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy Lefteris Pitarakis/AP via Al Jazeera]