Erdogan, who has racked up greater powers during his 20 years in office, completed a first-round election on May 14 just short of a victory and also retained a majority in parliament, despite runaway inflation and the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has turned his country’s NATO membership and location straddling Europe and the Middle East into international influence, is favored to be re-elected in a presidential run-off Sunday, despite a host of national issues.
On the final day of his campaign, in an attempt to rally his conservative base, Erdogan paid tribute to his executed Islamic predecessor, Adnan Menderes.
Menderes was tried and hanged a year after the military staged a coup in 1960 to put Turkey back on a more secular path. Erdogan survived an attempted coup against his own Islamic-based government in 2016.
While Erdogan’s first decade in power was characterized by strong economic growth and warm relations with Western powers that elevated his global status and domestic support, his second began with a corruption scandal and shattered. quickly turned into political repression and years of economic turmoil that erased many early gains.
Sunday’s vote comes amid growing fears over the future of the beleaguered Turkish lira, the stability of its banks, the refugee crisis and the rights of women and LGBTQ+ people.
The Failing Lira
Erdogan forced the central bank to act on his unconventional theory that lowering interest rates would lower inflation and the exact opposite happened.
Turkey’s annual inflation rate hit 85% last year, while the lira entered a brief free fall. Yet the currency has remained remarkably stable during the campaign period, a sign that the government is investing considerable sums in market interventions.
Meanwhile, the central bank’s net foreign currency holdings, a key measure of financial health, fell into negative territory for the first time since 2002.
Economists believe that Erdogan’s government will have to reverse the trend and raise rates sharply or stop supporting the pound if it is to avoid a full-fledged crisis after the vote.
“If Kilicdaroglu won, he would immediately establish a more austere monetary policy than Erdogan’s,” said Giorgio Broggi of investment firm Moneyfarm.
CanKilicdaroglu wins again?
Erdogan ended up beating secular opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu by almost five percentage points two weeks ago.
But his failure to pass the 50% threshold sparked Turkey’s first-ever run-off election and underscored that support for its longest-serving leader is gradually fading.
Kilicdaroglu has focused his campaign on more immediate concerns as he tries to come back from behind and restore the secular party that has ruled Turkey for most of the 20th century.
He used a late-night TV interview on Friday to accuse Erdogan’s government of unfairly blocking his mass text messages to voters.
“They are afraid of us,” said the 74-year-old former civil servant.
The episode highlights what opposition supporters, many of whom are secular liberals in big cities like Istanbul and Izmir, have been saying for years. And while the polls on Election Day were deemed free, observers say they were hardly fair.
“These were competitive but still limited elections,” said the head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) election observation mission, Michael Georg Link, after the first round.
“The criminalization of certain political forces, including the detention of several opposition politicians, has prevented full political pluralism and hampered the rights of individuals to stand for election.”
Kilicdaroglu pledged support for low-income families if elected president at the family support assurance meeting on Saturday.
“The state deposits money in the bank account of every family with no income or whose income is below the minimum wage,” he said in Ankara. “The woman will withdraw this money like a pensioner, a worker or a civil servant and support her children.
“Therefore, no one knows that this family is poor, earns less and needs income. Only the social state knows this. I offer you all my most sincere greetings.
“Thank you and be in the palm of Allah. Keep the ballot boxes.”
Catastrophic earthquake in Türkiye
Meanwhile, Turkey is grappling with a rocky recovery from February’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake, the deadliest quake in the country’s modern history.
It destroyed or damaged over 300,000 buildings. Hundreds of thousands of residents are still sheltering in temporary accommodation like tents, and some 658,000 people have been left jobless, according to the International Labor Organization.
The World Bank estimates that the earthquake caused 31.68 billion euros in direct damage, an amount equivalent to 4% of Turkey’s gross domestic product in 2021.
Recovery and reconstruction costs could be up to twice as much, the international financial institution said.
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