Elections in Turkey: Erdogan claims victory, Kılıçdaroğlu concedes

Key points
  • President Tayyip Erdogan won the Turkish presidential election, securing his third decade of rule.
  • Official results have yet to be released, but Erdogan’s opponent Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu did not respond to the victory speech.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and other leaders of the Middle East were congratulated by President Erdogan.
President Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory in Turkey’s presidential election, a victory that will extend his increasingly authoritarian rule into a third decade after he faced his toughest political challenge.
Addressing supporters from the roof of a bus in Istanbul, Erdogan thanked the people for voting and said the Turks had given him the responsibility of managing for the next five years.
“The only winner is Türkiye,” he said.

The final official results have not yet been published.

There was no immediate reaction to Erdogan’s victory speech from his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who was backed by the six-party opposition alliance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Erdogan. The presidents of Iran and Algeria, as well as the Emir of Qatar, were among the leaders who congratulated him in the Middle East, where he asserted Turkish influence, sometimes using military might.

The elections were seen as one of Turkey’s most important, as the opposition believed they had a strong chance of removing Mr. Erdogan after his popularity was hurt by the cost-of-living crisis.

On the contrary, the victory will strengthen his image as invincible after he has already changed the domestic, economic, security and foreign policy in the NATO member country of 85 million people and positioned Turkey as a regional power.
Supporters gathered at his residence in Istanbul in anticipation of a victory as figures provided by both the state-run Anadolu agency and opposition news agency ANKA gave him the upper hand as nearly 99 percent of the ballot boxes were counted.

The head of the High Electoral Commission earlier told a press conference that Mr. Erdogan leads Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu with 53.41 percent support, with 75.42 percent of ballot boxes registered.

Mr. Erdogan, head of the Islamist-based AKP party, addressed voters with nationalist and conservative rhetoric in a divisive campaign that diverted attention from deep economic problems.
The defeat of Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu, who promised to put the country on a more democratic path of cooperation, is likely to be mourned in Western capitals alarmed by his ties to Russia.

In the Middle East, the prospect of another five years of Erdogan’s rule does not seem to cause the same anxiety that he may once have felt after reaching an agreement with several governments with which he was at odds.

Turkish presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu waving at the camera

Turkish presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), waves to his supporters. Source: AARP / Sedat Suna

Erdogan’s supporters gathered outside his Istanbul residence chanting “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great.”

“I expect things to get better,” said Nisa, 28, a woman wearing a headscarf and a headband with Erdogan’s name on it.
Another Erdogan supporter said that Turkey would become stronger if he was in power for another five years.

“There are questions, problems in every country in the world, including European countries… With strong leadership, we will overcome Turkey’s problems too,” said a supporter who identified himself as Mert, 39, noting the sound

Bugra Oztug, 24, who voted for Kılıçdaroğlu, accused the opposition of failing to change. “I feel sad and disappointed, but I am not hopeless. I still think that there are people who can see the reality and the truth,” Mr. Oztug said.
Erdogan’s actions have confused opponents who thought voters would punish him for the state’s initially slow response to February’s devastating earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people.

But in the first round of voting on May 14, which included parliamentary elections, his AK Party won first place in 10 of the 11 earthquake-hit provinces, helping it, along with its allies, secure a parliamentary majority.

Two bulletins with images of Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu.

A ballot at a polling station in an Argentina primary school during the second round between incumbent President Erdogan of the AKP People’s Alliance and Kilicdaroglu of the CHP National Alliance in the 2023 Turkish presidential election. Source: AARP / Valery Sharifulin

Economic policy in the spotlight

Emre Erdogan, professor of political science at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, attributed Erdogan’s success to the belief of his supporters “in his ability to solve problems, even though he created many of them himself.”
Mr. Erdogan also retained the support of conservative voters, who have long felt marginalized by the secular elites that used to dominate Turkey. “This era will be characterized by the decline of political and civil liberties, polarization and cultural struggles between the two political tribes,” he said.

Erdogan appears to have won despite years of economic turmoil, which critics blame on unorthodox economic policies that the opposition has pledged to reverse.

Uncertainty about what an Erdogan victory would mean for economic policy pushed the lira to a record low last week.
Reuters reported last week that there are divisions and uncertainty within Erdogan’s government over whether to stick to what some are calling an unsustainable economic program or abandon it.

Critics hailed the vote as a test of whether such an autocratic leader could be removed peacefully.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a suit

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives to vote at a polling station during the second round of the presidential elections in Istanbul. Source: AARP / Murad Sezer

But ahead of the first round of the presidential election on May 14, Erdogan, a veteran of a dozen electoral victories, said he respects democracy and denies being a dictator.

Mr. Kilicdaroglu, who has campaigned largely inclusively in the face of attacks from Mr. Erdogan, has vowed to reboot governance, restore human rights, and restore independence to the courts and the central bank after they have been sidelined for the past decade .

After his ruling alliance secured a comfortable majority in parliament in a May 14 vote, Erdogan warned that a diverse six-party opposition alliance would struggle for power and he would continue his strong leadership into a new five-year presidential term.