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Recurring triumph manifests the Erdoğan phenomenon

Recurring triumph manifests the Erdoğan phenomenon

Before the first-round election on May 14, many people supposed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s long-standing winning streak would be broken. This belief was fueled by high inflation and the devastating earthquakes that had occurred just three months before the elections. Nonetheless, the outcomes of the first-round election contradicted the predictions of almost all polls, leading to historic results that surprised many. According to final results announced by the Supreme Election Council (YSK), Erdoğan garnered approximately 600,000 new votes and further increased his vote rate to 52.15% in the runoff on Sunday, surpassing Kılıçdaroğlu who received 47.84%. With this victory, Erdoğan, as a party leader, achieved his 16th electoral triumph since 2002, encompassing parliamentary elections, referendums, local elections and presidential elections. Moreover, Erdoğan has consistently maintained the support of nearly half of the Turkish population. In other words, one out of every two people in Türkiye continues to vote for him, even as he enters his 21st year in power. His political career is one of the most successful examples among representative democracies. The famous saying of legendary English football player Gary Lineker, “Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win,” aptly describes Erdoğan’s election victory. Similarly, Turkish elections have become a political competition where multiple parties vie for success, but Erdoğan consistently emerges as the winner. The question then arises: How does Erdoğan maintain his winning streak? Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and his alliance, the People’s Alliance, secured an absolute majority in the Grand National Assembly of Türkiye. With 49.47% of the vote, his coalition won 323 seats out of the 600-seat Parliament, which will be a key factor in the upcoming runoff. On the other hand, Kılıçdaroğlu’s Nation Alliance only managed to gain 212 seats with 35% of the vote. Finally, the third alliance, the Labor and Freedom Alliance, led by the Green Left Party (YSP), associated with the PKK, won 65 seats with 10.55%. The numbers indicated that Erdoğan held a significant advantage over his rival ahead of the runoff election, leading by nearly 5%, which equated to approximately 2.5 million votes. In addition, Erdoğan’s allies obtained a majority in the Turkish assembly. This allowed him to emphasize the importance of government stability during the runoff campaign. He had already begun emphasizing the significance of “stability and trust” in a live TV broadcast immediately after the first round. Indeed, results clearly demonstrated that the Turkish people did not desire a “divided government,” as most voters preferred the same direction in both the parliamentary and presidential elections. The stability campaign was practical, not surprisingly.

Unique leadership

This is true that Erdoğan has an important demographic advantage. He engages in politics with the conservative-nationalist base, representing the largest demographic in Türkiye. However, attributing Erdoğan’s success solely to this sociological fact would be an oversimplification. His political success has surpassed those of past and current right-leaning leaders who also appealed to similar social segments as himself. The secret to his exceptional success lies in his unique leadership style. Erdoğan possesses unique leadership qualities that allow him to establish a strong connection with society. His ability to captivate large crowds is evident, and watching him at rallies is akin to witnessing a superstar performing on stage. Ibrahim Kalın, who has worked closely with Erdoğan as the spokesperson of the Presidency for many years, highlights Erdoğan’s exceptional leadership skills in an exclusive interview. Kalın emphasizes that Erdoğan commands the attention and admiration of everyone when he attends international summits hosted by the G-20, EU and NATO. “President Erdoğan is a leader who immediately makes one feel that he has a charismatic presence. In fact, I’ve attended numerous international summits with our esteemed president. When he enters such a setting, you’ll immediately notice that attention and interest instinctively shift toward him, and heads promptly turn in his direction.” The latest election results underscore the continuation of Erdoğan’s ability to mobilize more than half of Turkish voters through his strong connection with his voter base. Despite grappling with formidable challenges, such as high inflation, massive earthquakes, the Ukraine war and the COVID-19 pandemic, all of which have had profound effects on Türkiye’s economy, Erdoğan has shown exceptional resilience in preserving his connection with his voter base. The first-place finish of he and his party in the first round of the presidential elections on May 14 and the runoff on May 28 marks Erdoğan’s triumph again in his 21-year-old rule. Consequently, it’s clear that the “Erdoğan phenomenon” persists in Turkish politics. [Daily Sabah, May 31, 2023]