Wednesday, 31 May 2023


Erdogan defies predictions of political demise ahead of Turkey election runoff By Reuters

Erdogan defies predictions of political demise ahead of Turkey election runoff


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters in Istanbul, Turkey, May 18, 2023. REUTERS/Umit Bektas


By Can Sezer and Jonathan Spicer

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan has defied forecasts of his political demise in Turkey’s elections, rallying voters with a potent mix of religious conservatism and nationalism that looks set to propel his rule into a third decade on Sunday.

Though he has yet to clinch victory – Erdogan must first beat Kemal Kilicdaroglu in Sunday’s runoff – his momentum has only grown since he emerged with a solid lead in the first round on May 14, and analysts fully expect him to win.

Victory would entrench the rule of a leader who has transformed Turkey, reshaping the secular state founded 100 years ago to fit his pious vision while consolidating power in his hands in what critics see as a march to autocracy.

On the global stage, Erdogan has pivoted the NATO member away from its traditional Western allies, forged ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and turned Turkey into an assertive regional power.

Critics say he has increasingly polarised the nation during his 20-year rule, including in this election campaign. But he argued the contrary ahead of Sunday’s vote and said his opponents were “poisoning political discourse”.

“We will continue to embrace our nation, which is a way of thinking that comes from our culture,” he told CNN Turk in an interview on Thursday. “If we win on May 28, with God’s permission, every one of our 85 million people will win.”

The vote has been seen as one of the most consequential since the modern Turkish state was founded 100 years ago, with the opposition sensing its best chance yet of unseating Erdogan and reversing many of his far-reaching changes to Turkey.

But it has instead underlined his staying power, wrong-footing opponents who expected him to suffer the blowback of a cost-of-living crisis and criticism of the state’s response to earthquakes in February in which more than 50,000 people died.

Critics and earthquake survivors had expressed anger over a slow initial quake response by the government and lax enforcement of building rules – failures they said cost lives.

But his Islamist-rooted AK Party emerged top in 10 of the 11 provinces hit by the earthquakes, helping it secure along with its allies a parliamentary majority in the May 14 vote.

The gloves have come off on the campaign trail as Erdogan seeks to rally his…

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