© Reuters. People walk next to posters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, ahead of the May 28 presidential runoff vote, in Istanbul, Turkey, May 25, 2023. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
(Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan aims to extend his rule into a third decade in an election on Sunday, with the momentum seen in his favour in the runoff vote after a first round showed him ahead of his challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
Already buoyed by a parliamentary majority won by his Islamist-rooted AK Party and its allies on May 14, Erdogan got another boost on Monday thanks to the endorsement of a nationalist politician who came third in the first round.
The election will decide not only who leads Turkey but also how it is governed, where its economy is headed, and the shape of its foreign policy. Kilicdaroglu, who received the endorsement of another far-right leader, is backed by a six-party alliance including his Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Modern Turkey’s longest-serving leader, Erdogan has championed religious piety and low interest rates at home while asserting Turkish influence in the region and loosening the NATO member’s ties with the West.
The election takes place three months after earthquakes in southeast Turkey killed more than 50,000 people.
WHAT’S AT STAKE FOR TURKEY …
The most powerful leader since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the modern Turkish republic a century ago, Erdogan and his AK Party have shifted Turkey away from Ataturk’s secular blueprint.
Erdogan has also centralised power around an executive presidency, based in a 1,000-room palace on the edge of Ankara, which sets policy on Turkey’s economic, security, domestic and international affairs.
Erdogan’s critics say his government has muzzled dissent, eroded rights and brought the judicial system under its sway, a charge denied by officials who say it has protected citizens in the face of unique security threats including a 2016 coup attempt.
Economists say Erdogan’s calls for low rates sent inflation soaring to a 24-year high of 85% last year, and the lira slumping to one tenth of its value against the dollar over the last decade.
… AND THE REST OF THE WORLD?
Under Erdogan, Turkey has flexed military power in the Middle East and beyond, launching four incursions into Syria, waging an offensive against Kurdish militants inside Iraq and sending military support to Libya and Azerbaijan.
Turkey also saw a series of diplomatic clashes with regional powers Saudi…
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