Once again it is Recep Tayyip Erdogan who wins the elections, reconfirmed president of Turkey in the ballot of 28 May. While the Turkish Republic is preparing to enter its second century of existence – next October 29 will be the centenary of its proclamation by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk -, the “Erdogan era” is preparing to enter its third decade, by now 20 years since, in 2003, he became premier with his Akp and then became president in 2014.
One man in charge
The reconfirmation of the “Sultan” came with a margin of four points over the challenger Kilicdaroglu: a victory which on the one hand gives him further strength and on the other shows an opposition that had never reached so high. Erdogan has in fact defeated a very vast alliance, made up of the so-called “Table of Six”, a set of very heterogeneous forces ranging from secular parties to other religious ones, from reformist forces to other conservative ones, and which was also able to count on the vote of the Kurdish parties and, in the ballot, even of that of a nationalist party which in the first round had supported the “third wheel” Sinan Ogan. A coalition united above all on one point: the opposition to Erdogan.
The Turkish president has therefore brought home a reconfirmation against an opposition that had never presented itself in such a broad format, but at the same time the opposition, since Erdogan has been in power, can claim a very important result, not only in percentage terms, but also symbolic ones, managing to establish itself for the first time in the provinces of Ankara and Istanbul in both the first and second rounds.
International balancing act
As soon as the victory was clear, Erdogan announced that this will be the “century of Turkey”: after 20 years in power in which he worked to make Ankara a power on the international scene, it will be interesting to see how this commitment will continue after the vote. In recent years Erdogan has increased Turkish influence in many areas of the world, from the Middle East to North Africa, but in recent months he has used more relaxed tones on numerous tables, such as with Greece, with which tensions had recently been very high due to the maritime border in the eastern Mediterranean, and with Assad’s Syria.
Now it remains to be seen what Erdogan’s attitude will be, strengthened by the reconfirmation: whether he will continue the détente of the last few months or will he resume a more active role in the delicate tables of the international chessboard. But the special observation is clearly the role it will play in Ukraine and in its relationship with Russia and NATO.
In past years, Erdogan’s Turkey has had moments of tension with Moscow (especially the shooting down of the Russian jet over Syria in 2015) and moments of great relaxation (such as the purchase of the S-400 missile system, a fact strongly criticized by the NATO allies), and still today he continues to have a relaxed relationship with Russia. A position that is allowing Turkey to play an autonomous role in Ukraine and makes Ankara a potential mediator in the conflict, especially after having contributed to the signing of the agreement for the export of grain from the Black Sea. And it is the same role that has allowed Ankara to set a series of conditions regarding NATO enlargement to include Finland and Sweden, with Helsinki having joined the alliance and Stockholm still waiting.
From Ukraine to Libya, from Syria to the eastern Mediterranean, these will be some of the tables to keep an eye on to understand how Turkey wants to shape its international role as a crossroads country for different areas of the world in the light of Erdogan’s re-election .