Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has managed to navigate through numerous political crises during his two-decade tenure in power, including mass protests, corruption allegations, a failed military coup, and the Syrian refugee crisis. However, now the Turkish people and economy are suffering, with skyrocketing inflation exacerbating the situation. Despite this, Erdogan, an increasingly authoritarian populist, has managed to maintain wide-ranging appeal and longevity. Erdogan has been criticized for his promotion of Islamic values in a country that has traditionally prioritized secularism. However, his elevation of these views has earned him deep allegiance from conservatives and religious adherents.
Erdogan has utilized government resources for his own political gain, including extravagant infrastructure spending to win over voters, and tightly controlling the media to silence criticism. He has also played a strong diplomatic game, making Turkey an independent and flexible player while engaging with both the East and West. The Turkish leader’s popularity during the economic crisis may stem from his ability to provide stability in a time of crisis, with many choosing to rally around their leader rather than take a chance on opposition candidates.
In the current election cycle, Erdogan fell short of the majority needed in the first round but remains the top front-runner in the runoff against opposition leader Kemal Kirikdaroglu. Erdogan’s strength comes from his ability to portray Turkey as a major player in geopolitics, with the country being a member of NATO and having the second-largest army in the alliance. Erdogan’s focus on promoting Islam has made the religion more visible in a country that has struggled with its secular roots.
The biggest threat to Erdogan currently is the downturn in the economy, with his main means of attack being increased government spending. However, economists warn that this will only exacerbate inflation along with falling interest rates. Despite criticisms and protests, Erdogan’s tight control of the media continues, with the opposition struggling to get its message out to the people.
Turkey’s political scene is complex, but Erdogan has shown himself to be a master of navigating through crises and maintaining his position in power. Though he may not have won the majority needed in the first round, his ability to rally support and maintain his position as the front-runner in the runoff indicates that he still holds significant sway over the Turkish people.