26/5/2023 – | Last update: 5/26/2023 02:53 PM (Mecca time)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks to extend his rule to a third decade as he enters the run-off in the presidential elections next Sunday, in light of the momentum that seems to be going in his favor after the first round ended with his lead over his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
According to a report by Reuters news agency, what enhances Erdogan's chances of winning is the parliamentary majority that the Justice and Development Party, which has Islamic roots, and its allies won on May 14.
And last Monday, Erdogan received another boost, as he obtained a pledge of support in the second round from nationalist politician Sinan Ogan, who came third in the first round of the presidential elections.
And the elections will not only determine who will lead the country, but also the way it is governed and where its economy and foreign policies are heading, according to Reuters.
As for Kilicdaroglu, he received new support from a far-right leader, who was originally a candidate from an alliance of 6 opposition parties, including the Republican People's Party, which he leads.
Erdogan, the longest-serving leader in modern Turkey, has championed religious considerations and low interest rates while asserting Turkish influence in the region and scaling back the NATO member's ties with the West.
The elections take place 3 months after the devastating earthquakes in southeastern Turkey, which claimed more than 50,000 lives.
The most powerful leader
Erdogan is the country's most powerful leader since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the modern Turkish Republic a century ago.
Erdogan is accused of distancing the country from Ataturk's secular approach, and his critics say his government has silenced the mouths of the opposition, undermined rights and subjected the judicial system to its influence.
This accusation is denied by Erdogan's government, which says it has protected citizens against security threats, including the 2016 coup attempt.
Economists say Erdogan's calls for lower interest rates led to inflation rising to a 24-year high of 85% last year, and the lira falling to a tenth of its value against the dollar over the past decade.
Under Erdogan's rule, Turkey has displayed its military power in the Middle East and beyond. It has launched 4 incursions into Syria, an attack on Kurdish militants inside Iraq, and has sent military support to Libya and Azerbaijan.
Turkey also witnessed a series of diplomatic confrontations with powers in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, along with Israel. It also entered into a dispute with Greece and Cyprus over the maritime borders in the eastern Mediterranean.
However, Ankara's relations with its neighbors and its regional environment have improved in the last two years.
Erdogan's purchase of Russian air defense systems led to US sanctions targeting Ankara's arms industry, while his closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin raised skepticism from critics about Ankara's commitment to NATO, according to Reuters.
However, Turkey brokered an agreement that allowed Ukrainian wheat to be exported across the Black Sea, in a move that suggests Erdogan could play a role in efforts to end the war in Ukraine.
It is not yet clear if there is a possible successor to Erdogan who is able to enjoy the same prestige that he gained on the international stage, a point he raised in his election campaign.
As for the opposition parties, they pledged to cancel many of the policies that characterized Erdogan's rule, including the restoration of the independence of the Central Bank and the abolition of Erdogan's unconventional economic policies.
The opposition also intends to dismantle the executive presidential system and return to the previous parliamentary system, in addition to sending Syrian refugees to their country.
Seeking support from nationalist voters in the run-off, Kilicdaroglu has ratcheted up his anti-immigrant rhetoric in the past two weeks and vowed to send migrants home.
The opposition parties aim to improve relations with Western allies, including the United States, and to return Turkey to the F-35 fighter jet program, from which it was excluded after purchasing Russian missile defenses.
According to Reuters, analysts believe that the policies pledged by the opposition may stimulate foreign investment.
Kilicdaroglu got 44.9% in the first round, compared to 49.5%, and this reflects the strong support enjoyed by the president despite the exacerbation of the high cost of living crisis and opinion polls that showed before the elections the opposition candidate's lead.
Erdogan says that voting in his favor will ensure stability after his coalition won a parliamentary majority.
Turkey's four-decade conflict with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) was an important factor in the election campaign, along with the role of the main Kurdish political parties.
Although the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party is not officially part of the opposition alliance, it strongly opposes Erdogan, prompting him to announce his support for Kilicdaroglu.
Erdogan says that Kılıçdar also obtained the support of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency since the 1980s in which more than 40,000 people have been killed, but Kılıçdaroğlu denies this.