Turkey decides on a future with or without Erdogan

The future of Turkey will be decided on May 28, as there was no winner in the most pivotal elections in Turkey’s modern history.

The presidential election will go to a second round after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to secure 50% of the votes cast to extend his 20-year rule decisively. His main opponent, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, could not claim an outright win. Opinion polls put Erdogan in second place, but they were not confirmed. According to many political analysts, Erdogan, who is Turkey’s most powerful leader since Ataturk, led over his opposition rival Kilicdaroglu in the first round of the elections on Sunday, May 14.

Therefore, neither Erdogan nor Kilicdaroglu cleared the 50% threshold needed to avoid a second round held on May 28, in an election seen as a judgment on Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian path. “The winner was undoubtedly our country,” Erdogan said in a speech to cheering supporters at his ruling AKP party headquarters in the capital Ankara.

Kilicdaroglu, head of a six-party coalition, said he would prevail in the second round and accused Erdogan’s party of interfering in counting votes and announcing the results while calling on his supporters to be patient.

Photo Credits: Presidency of the Republic of Türkiye / Twitter

East and West: Which way does Turkey face?

Turkey is coming out of the parliamentary and presidential elections divided. Erdogan, reaching 50%, enters the second round of the elections with a clear lead. The key question is whether the country will continue to follow borderline extreme rhetoric expressed by Erdogan or enter the path of change.

Most European countries, however – although keeping an equal distance – have long shown their preference for Kilicdaroglu. The Turks abroad, who voted in the first round of the elections, are also divided. Erdogan prevailed in the voters’ preferences in countries like Germany and France. Kemal Kilicdaroglu is overwhelmingly ahead of Erdogan in Britain.

According to political analysts, the main expectation of Western countries in case of the victory of Kilicdaroglu would be the fulfilment of the commitment to restore the principle of the rule of law. A second expectation would be the recovery of Turkey’s economy, which will allow the exploitation of the possibilities of cooperation with the EU.

Fragile economy

Turkey faces the great problem of poverty and deep recession, which plague most citizens. Whoever wins the election will face an economy with intractable structural problems that economists and investors warn will be “extremely difficult” to solve.

As all market players emphasize, for foreign capital to return to Turkey, sweeping reforms and changes will be required, some of which will run into obstacles or cause significant problems. It will be equally challenging to regain the trust of foreign investors who have turned their backs on Turkey in recent years. According to Goldman Sachs, foreign investors have withdrawn $7.3 billion from Turkish stocks over the past decade.

Is Erdogan still powerful?

The prospect of Erdogan entering a third decade in power has unsettled human rights activists, who are campaigning for reforms to repair the damage they say he has done to Turkey’s democracy. Thousands of political prisoners and activists could be freed if the opposition prevails.

Although Erdogan did better in the first round than pollsters expected, it is the first time that the head of state will be forced to participate in a second round, having yet to gather more than 50% of the votes. However, Turkey will have to take several steps forward, at all levels, to become attractive to investors and technological giants again.

Not long ago, a representative of Samsung stated that he did not feel safe in Turkey. It certainly takes much effort to regain everyone’s trust in Turkey, and it is still being determined whether this can be achieved with Erdogan holding the country’s reins.

George Mavridis is a freelance journalist and writer based in Greece. His work primarily covers tech, innovation, social media, digital communication, and politics. He graduated from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki with a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication. Also, he holds an MA in Media and Communication Studies from the Malmö University of Sweden and an MA in Digital Humanities from the Linnaeus University of Sweden.