The indestructible Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory in the presidential election on Sunday, which leaves him master of Turkey for five more years. Perched on a bus in front of his home in Istanbul, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, the 69-year-old head of state, including twenty in power, spoke in front of a sea of red flags waved by an enthusiastic crowd. “Our nation has entrusted us with the responsibility of governing the country for the next five years,” he said, after an election which forced him for the first time in a second round.
According to the results covering more than 98% of the ballots, published by the official Anadolu agency, the head of state won 52.1% of the vote against 47.9% for his social-democratic rival Kemal Kiliçdaroglu who, 74 years old, lost the bet of the alternation and the “peaceful democracy” that he promised. Spontaneous rallies formed everywhere in the cities where the “Reis” triumphed, especially in the heart of Anatolia.
Neither the desire for change and openness of part of the electorate, nor the severe inflation which is undermining Turkey, nor the restrictions on freedoms and the hyper-presidentialization of a power which has sent tens of thousands of opponents behind bars or in exile, weighed against the desire for security and stability that had already been expressed in the first round of voting.
Not even the consequences of the terrible earthquake in February (at least 50,000 dead and 3 million displaced) in eleven provinces in the south of the country, which largely renewed the head of state. President Erdogan’s party, the Islamo-conservative AKP, on which he built his accession to supreme power, lost seats in Parliament but retained its majority with its allies.
Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, for his part, suffered one more defeat, despite a campaign which took the opposite view to that of the president by promising the “return of spring” in the face of invective. Considered by many, including within the opposition, as a dull candidate without charisma, Kemal Kiliçadaroglu, who led a coalition of six parties, had ended up imposing his mark, hearts with his fingers during his meetings and a posed eloquence of “demokrat dede”, a “democratic grandpa”.
But he was unable to impose the economy or the crisis in the electoral debate and is preparing, as he had promised, to “go back to take care of his grandchildren”. “He’s the right person; I expect Erdogan to continue to bring good things to the country and first of all to restore the economy,” hoped Nisa Sivaslioglu, 17, rushing towards the gigantic presidential palace in Ankara where the new winner was expected in the night.
Weary-faced, slow-moving Recep Tayyip Erdogan had voted midday in his Usküdar district of Istanbul: a cheery crowd awaited him there, to whom bodyguards handed out toys while the president slipped some banknotes to children. Almost simultaneously, all smiles despite the unfavorable forecasts, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu cast his ballot in Ankara encouraging his fellow citizens to vote “to get rid of an authoritarian government”.
The Erdogan camp has constantly described the opposition led by Kiliçdaroglu as “terrorist” because of the support given to it by the leaders of the pro-Kurdish party HDP. People interviewed by AFP in the polling station queues testified to the polarization of the country after these weeks of campaigning. His re-election comes ten years to the day after the start of the large “Gezi” demonstrations which had spread throughout the country and had been severely repressed.