Erdogan's re-election and how it impacts Turkish politics

In this article, Ahmad Abdel-Rahman discusses what Erdogan's re- election means for Turkish politics.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a third presidential term with 52.14 per cent of the Turkish vote, compared to 47.86 per cent for his rival, Kamal Kılıçdaroğlu.

The elections were held under harsh economic conditions. The value of the Turkish lira has fallen significantly along with the balance of financial reserves under Erdogan's reign. These events stirred up the business sector and the middle class. The elections also took place amid strained Turkish relations with the West and many neighbouring countries. Turkey's security and the economic repercussions of the influx of refugees into the country, and the violent shock that accompanied the earthquake across the Turkish-Syrian border, have also been important. However, these crises have also led voters to rally around Erdogan as a strong figure capable of guiding the country in a crisis.

Perhaps there was a difference of opinion about the reasons for Erdogan's success in these elections, but there is no doubt that this result proved that Erdogan is a good reader of the Turkish populace and an experienced politician. This was reflected in the election campaign in that he addressed the right by announcing strict positions on refugees while not retreating from his dreams about Turkish influence in the region. For example, he accused his opponent of not giving sufficient priority to the Islamic religion.

Erdogan also voiced concerns about Sweden's entry into NATO due to its favourable stance towards the Kurds. He instructed Arab countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, to become more open, taking gradual steps to attract Arab investments, calm the business sector as well as the Turkish political sector. The latter was critical of the country's confrontational approach during Erdogan's presidency.

Even after the results of the elections, Erdogan took advantage of the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi's call to congratulate him. El-Sisi said that he and Erdogan had decided to immediately start improving diplomatic relations between the two countries and exchanging ambassadors. This was followed by the attendance of the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Soukry, to the official Turkish ceremonies on the president's election for a new term. Erdogan also backed down from his hardline electoral position regarding refugees remaining on Turkish soil, and said that his election promises will be implemented gradually for humanitarian reasons.

The new Turkish cabinet showed the importance of being cautious, especially since the choice of ministers reflects that Erdogan has weighed several issues, opinions, and orientations in his choices. The new government formation was full of many messages, foremost of which was the message of renewal and change that Erdogan had promised during his election campaign.

He appointed Ibrahim Glen as head of Turkish intelligence. Earlier, Glen had been Erdogan's official spokesperson and was acting national security advisor.

In the shakeup, Hakan Fidan left the post of director of intelligence and assumed the portfolio of foreign minister. These two were in Erdogan's political team when he took strict and confrontational stances towards several neighbouring countries. However, Glen and Fidan were also active members and drivers of Turkish diplomacy in Libya, Syria and a number of Arab countries.

It was also noted that the Turkish Minister of Interior was changed and replaced by the former governor of Istanbul, Ali Yerlikaya, whose competencies include the files of terrorism and refugees, which were among the most important issues during the elections.

On the most important Turkish economic issues, Mehmet Shamsik was appointed Minister of Finance, more than seven years after leaving this position. This was considered a positive sign for the national and international business sector, after several years of unconventional Turkish economic policies. The  issue  is whether the new minister will succeed in convincing Erdogan of the importance of changing his  economic path to which he has been directly and strongly linked in recent years.

The ability to maintain Turkish balances will be important. These changes have been called for by Turkish Vice President Cevdet Yilmas, who is an economist, who has spent a long time in the bureaucracy. The new Minister of Trade, Omar Polat, is from the public sector. The former foreign and defence ministers and all deputies of the Justice and Development party, to which the president belongs, have also been sworn in as members of the new parliament. They will apply some pressure on the government against any fundamental changes related to Turkey's foreign policy.

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Saturday, 30 September 2023