Erdogan’s New Term: More Power Plays and Exploiting Geopolitical Rivalries

Last Sunday, Turkey held presidential and parliamentary elections, which ended in a new victory for the incumbent leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In an interview with, Guney Yildiz, visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, shared his view on the domestic and international ramifications of the elections’ results.

Having won 52,59% of the vote, Erdogan became the president of Turkey for another five years. However, one cannot say that the political situation in the country and beyond is a trivial task for the new old president to easily cope with.

“I think this election has four winners from different angles,” Guney Yildiz told in a telephone interview. “First, Erdogan is the main winner, because he won it in the first round. The Nationalist Movement Party is the second biggest winner, because most people were expecting they would do from 5 to 6 percent and would be below the 10% threshold.

“The third winner is HDP, the Kurdish party. This party has all sorts of pressure and repression on its candidates, especially in the Kurdish areas. But they still managed to pass the 10% threshold, and will be represented in the parliament, so they clearly become a powerful opposition party.

“And Muharrem Ince, the candidate of the main opposition CHP party, is the fourth winner. He was an almost unknown person only six month ago and now he is the most powerful opposition figure against Erdogan.”

No one doubts the fact Erdogan has much more power over the country now. However, the Turkish president is about to face even stronger opposition in the face of the CHP party.

“Erdogan is facing a much more mobilized opposition in front of him, and although he has the full powers, he still faces strong resistance from within the state for his plans to reshape the state structures,” Yildiz said.

Another issue is the Turkish economy. “It was going from bad to worse during last year, with the Turkish lira doing extremely badly against the US dollar and euro, and this might continue and Erdogan will have to face an economic crisis,” the expert stressed. “He cannot blame anyone for these economic problems, because he has been in power for the past 16 years.”

Erdogan will continue military operations in Syria and Iraq as the focus on defense industry and the use of Turkey’s military capabilities as a card in diplomacy have become a hallmark of his presidency, Yildiz said. As for the relations with Russia, the Turkish foreign policy since the forced departure of former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is firmly based on trying to exploit geopolitical rivalries between Washington and Moscow. According to Yildiz, that explains why Turkey became closer to Moscow in the last few years: to balance its relations with the West.

This is not welcomed by everyone in the Turkish political elites, so they will be trying to mend fences with the West again. However, Erdogan will continue to press for his agenda, intensifying the differences, the expert believes. “I really expect that Turkey will continue to slowly drift away from the West. Erdogan’s main goal will be to continue restructuring the Turkey state around presidency. Indeed, the Turkish military is still very powerful and Erdogan does not wield enough power to reign his army in. Nevertheless, the changes that he has already made to the Turkish political system are the points of no return”, Yildiz concluded.

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