Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan extends rule into third decade with election win

As Mr Erdogan begins another five-year term, attention turns to tackling inflation and rebuilding lives of earthquake victims

Powered by automated translation

Turkey's long-time leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the presidency in a run-off election, with 52.14 per cent of the votes, High Election Board head Ahmet Yener said on Sunday, making the results official.

With 99.43 per cent of ballot boxes opened, Mr Erdogan's rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu received 47.86 per cent of the votes, Mr Yener said.

With a gap of more than two million votes between candidates, the rest of the uncounted votes will not change the result, he said.

In his victory speech on Monday, Mr Erdogan called for “unity and solidarity”.

“We call for this with all our heart,” he told throngs of supporters outside his presidential palace in Ankara

Mr Erdogan said the election was Turkey's “most important” of the modern era.

“We have completed the second round of the presidential elections with the favour of our people,” he said.

“We have no resentment, no anger or frustration with anyone. Today, nobody lost. The entire nation of 85 million won.”

Mr Erdogan said he would secure the return of another million Syrian refugees.

He acknowledged that inflation was the most urgent issue for the country, but said it would also fall, following the policy rate that was cut to 8.5 per cent, from 19 per cent two years ago.

“We are designing an economy focused on investment and employment, with a finance management team that has international reputation,” Mr Erdogan said.

His opponent Mr Kilicdaroglu expressed sadness on Sunday about the country's future, after Mr Erdogan declared victory.

“My real sadness is about the difficulties awaiting the country,” the secular opposition leader said, without formally conceding defeat.

Erdogan supporters feel he is right leader to take country forward

Yuksel Moralli, 51, a supporter of Mr Erdogan, said he was delighted.

“Everything will be good for Turkey if he can make the economy run well again,” Mr Moralli said. “Then there’s nothing to be worried about with five years of him.”

Mr Moralli's friend Umut Askin, 47, a lorry driver, agreed.

“I hope he will make the economy work again,” Mr Askin said.

The vote comes as the country struggles with a difficult economic situation, with inflation soaring and the Turkish lira plummeting in value against the US dollar.

That has in part been blamed on Mr Erdogan's unorthodox economic policies.

Turkey's lira weakened to 20.05 against the dollar on Sunday as Mr Erdogan claimed victory, not far off the 20.06 record low hit on Friday for the currency, which has weakened more than 6 per cent since the start of the year.

Turkey votes in run-off election – in pictures

In the previous vote, the President, who leads the Justice and Development Party (AKP), fell slightly short of the 50 per cent needed to avoid a second round run off – but was five points ahead of Mr Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP).

Voter turnout was expected to be high, although slightly lower than the 87 per cent of the first round. It is believed fewer Kurdish voters posted their ballots on Sunday.

Typically, they voted for Mr Kilicdaroglu but some may have stayed away after he aligned with a far-right party to close the gap.

More than 64.1 million people were registered to vote, including 1.92 million who earlier cast their ballots at polling stations abroad.

Mr Erdogan, head of the Islamist-rooted AKP, appealed to voters with nationalist and conservative speech during a divisive campaign that deflected attention from deep economic troubles.

Mr Kilicdaroglu, who ran a mostly inclusive campaign, had promised to reset governance, restore human rights and return independence to the courts and the central bank after they were sidelined over the last decade.

After his ruling alliance won a comfortable majority in parliament in the May 14 vote, Mr Erdogan had warned that a diverse opposition alliance of six parties would struggle to govern and he would continue his strong leadership in a new five-year term as president.

The defeat of Mr Kilicdaroglu, who promised to set the country on a more democratic and collaborative path, would probably be regretted in western capitals, which have been alarmed by Mr Erdogan’s ties to Russia.

Not all approve of Mr Erdogan's victory

Mr Erdogan’s re-election was not met with universal approval.

“Another bad term has started for the young people of Turkey,” said Sepan Demir, 23.

“We have to find another way for us to survive. I was sure that he was going to win, so I already started German classes five months ago so I could get a visa.

“I don’t know how, but somehow I will get to Germany, with a visa or without. I don’t want to spend five more years with Erdogan and his dictatorship.”

His friend, Fatih Sovci, said: “I won’t forgive the people who voted for him. He managed the country in a dirty way and people still are voting for him.

“It’s terrible. I work in Taksim as a young man, my monthly wage is $350. I can’t even buy a phone for myself.”

Some gathered around TV screens to watch results trickle in, although the popular Taksim Square in central Istanbul remained busy.

Orhan Yilkilmaz, 30, selling corn on the cob in the middle of Taksim as drizzle closed in, was nonchalant.

“I voted for Kilicdaroglu but how am I feeling?” Mr Yilkilmaz said. “I don't feel anything. I don't have any excitement or fear.

“All the politicians work for themselves and why would I be concerned or excited for a politician who will never ask me how I am doing? And I am surviving.”

An army of election monitors were on hand to ensure the poll was fair. After the first round, the CHP filed a complaint after alleging voting irregularities.

“There is not such a country in the world like us, where you have to vote and also protect or guard your vote. Can you imagine?” said Hasim, 50, as he painted a wall near Taksim Square.

World leaders congratulate incumbent President

President Sheikh Mohamed sent a message of congratulations to Mr Erdogan on his re-election.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Presidential Court, sent similar messages.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent a cable of congratulations to Mr Erdogan.

“On the occasion of your excellency's re-election for a new presidential term, I am pleased to send your excellency my sincere congratulations and best wishes for success and payment, and for the brotherly people of the Republic of Turkey for further progress and advancement,” Prince Mohammed said.

US President Joe Biden on Sunday congratulated Mr Erdogan, saying: “I look forward to continuing to work together as Nato allies on bilateral issues and shared global challenges.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin also congratulated Mr Erdogan on Sunday, saying it was evidence the Turkish people appreciated his selfless work and independent foreign policy.

“The election victory was a natural result of your selfless work as the head of the Republic of Turkey, clear evidence of the support of the Turkish people for your efforts to strengthen state sovereignty and conduct an independent foreign policy,” Mr Putin said in a message to Mr Erdogan, the Kremlin said.

“We highly appreciate your personal contribution to the strengthening of friendly Russian-Turkish relations and mutually beneficial co-operation in various areas.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday welcomed the re-election of Mr Erdogan, who despite close ties with Russia's leader has become as a mediator in the continuing conflict.

“We count on the further strengthening of the strategic partnership for the good of our countries, as well as the strengthening of co-operation for the security and stability of Europe,” Mr Zelenskyy said on Twitter, where he congratulated Mr Erdogan on his victory.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim were among leaders to congratulate him in the Middle East, where he has asserted Turkish influence, at times with military power.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told Mr Erdogan: “Germany and Turkiye are close partners and allies; our people and economies are deeply intertwined.

“Congratulations to President Erdogan. Together we want to advance our common agenda with a fresh impetus.”

EU Council President Charles Michel and the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen also congratulated Mr Erdogan.

“Congratulations Recep Tayyip Erdogan for your re-election as President of Turkiye,” Mr Michel tweeted.

“I look forward to working with you again to deepen EU-TR relations in the years to come.”

Ms Von der Leyen tweeted: “I look forward to continue building the EU-Turkiye relationship.

“It is of strategic importance for both the EU and Turkiye to work on advancing this relationship, for the benefit of our people.”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called Mr Erdogan on Sunday evening and “reiterated the strong relationship between the UK and Turkiye, as economic partners and close Nato allies.”

Mr Sunak reflected on Turkey’s continuing recovery from the devastating earthquakes this year and pledged the UK’s continued solidarity with the Turkish people.

The leaders agreed to continue working closely together to address shared challenges.

French President Emmanuel Macron offered congratulations, saying France and Turkey had “huge challenges to face together”.

Updated: May 30, 2023, 3:11 AM