Out of the four candidates in the first round of presidential elections on 14 May, none of the candidates were able to pass the 50% plus 1 threshold.
Recep Tayyib Erdoğan and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who were the two frontrunners, went on to the second round. The percentages and number of votes candidates received in the second round on 28 May (with 99.9% of ballot boxes opened) are as follows:
Recep Tayyib Erdoğan: 52.16% (27,725,131 votes)
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu: 47.84% (25,432,951 votes)
But what does his victory mean for the region?
President Erdoğan regards the Middle East as a region of common religion, culture and history. His Middle East policy is based on a mixture of religious, historical and ideological sentiments as well as business and financial interests.
Erdoğan’s relationships with Arab countries have been through different stages. 2002 to 2013 was the golden age. Bilateral strategic councils between Turkey and many Arab countries were established, and political and economic relations flourished.
However, developments during the Arab Spring led to friction between Turkey and some Arab states. Turkey reacted sharply against the coup d’état in Egypt in 2013.
Erdoğan's relationships with Arab countries have been through different stages. 2002 to 2013 was the golden age. However, developments during the Arab Spring led to friction between Turkey and some Arab states.
Ankara also got involved in inter-Arab disputes, siding with Islamists and Qatar. Relations with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Egypt and others deteriorated sharply.
In 2021, Turkey also jumped on the bandwagon of restoring relations in the region and its efforts — to a large extent — paid off.
In 2022, Turkey was a major attraction for Arab tourists with 5.3 million visiting. Trade volume between Turkey and Arab countries reached 43.5 billion dollars. Turkish construction companies again became active in the region.
Turkey has been facing an economic crisis including a foreign currency shortage and one of the ways it has tried to overcome this problem has been to try to attract foreign currency inflows from the Gulf region.
It is reported that Turkey has signed swap deals worth $28 billion with several countries including the UAE, Qatar, China and South Korea.
President Erdoğan said in a live television broadcast a couple of days ago that "some countries from the Gulf and other countries deposited money into the (Turkish) system which inevitably relieved the Central Bank (of Turkey) and the market, albeit for a short period of time."
Erdoğan did not name which Gulf countries he was referring to but said that after the election, he will visit them to express his gratitude.
Contention with Syria and rapprochement with Egypt
Syria will continue to be a major file where the government will have to juggle several balls at once.
The return of Syrian refugees, the YPG, the presence of Turkish troops in Syria and control over water resources are the main points of contention between the two countries. Erdoğan will also have to deal with an emboldened Syrian president (Bashar al-Assad) who has regained his seat in the Arab League.
The return of Syrian refugees, the YPG, the presence of Turkish troops in Syria and control over water resources are the main points of contention between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the recent rapprochement between Turkey and Egypt has come to a point where the presidents of the two countries will meet and diplomatic relations will be raised to the level of ambassador.
The foreign ministers of Turkey and Egypt pledge to end decade-long frosty relations between the two countries https://t.co/UmvYPsYcMg
Turkey established strategic cooperation relations in 2007 with the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council but these relations were suspended after 2013. Revival with these two regional organisations will be on the agenda.
Reduced dependence on Middle East energy
Turkey imports part of its energy needs from the Middle East — 22% of its oil imports come from Iraq and 12.56% of its natural gas from Algeria. It is also recently buying LNG from Egypt.
But Turkey is no longer as dependent on the region as it was some time ago. It has been receiving the bulk of its energy needs from Russia, Iran, Central Asia and Azerbaijan.
Turkey is no longer as dependent on the region for its energy needs as it was some time ago. It has been receiving the bulk of its energy needs from Russia, Iran, Central Asia and Azerbaijan.
Meanwhile, Turkey is in a position to be a major player in energy transport by offering a feasible alternative in terms of cost and distance.
Connection to world markets with the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, extension of the Arab pipeline, and transport of East Mediterranean and Egypt gas are some major opportunities in that regard.
Overcoming election challenges
Erdoğan has dominated Turkish politics for the last 22 years. He is especially very popular in the countryside and among people who have migrated to the big cities. They see him as one of their own. Central Anatolia and the Black Sea region are his vote banks.
Erdoğan and his AKP party faced multiple challenges in this election.
A serious economic crisis, the devastating earthquake of 6 February, allegations of corruption and mafia-type business dealings and scandals implicating AKP politicians including Erdoğan, all marred his election campaign.
While his loyalists dismissed corruption allegations, Erdoğan managed to place security issues at the forefront and push the economy to the background. He convinced his clientele that even though there were problems with the economy, he would make things right if re-elected.
He managed to impress earthquake survivors with his pledges of reconstruction. With relatively small losses, he was able to maintain his votes even in the areas worst hit by the earthquake.
Erdoğan's acute political acumen and his party's ability to mobilise and organise are major factors that contributed to his victory, but his control over the press led to extreme bias in his favour.
Erdoğan appeared on television several times a day for live studio programmes, interviews, rallies etc. Some interviews were aired on 20 TV channels simultaneously. Erdoğan also used state resources and his presidential privileges to his advantage.
Kılıçdaroğlu's performance: Strengths and weaknesses
On the Nation Alliance side, Kılıçdaroğlu managed to bring together six different parties and hold them together. He maintained an active campaign and went on the offensive but he was not able to break the unity of Erdoğan supporters or attract nationalist/ conservative voters as much as he hoped for.
The so-called third option in the elections, the Ata Alliance, attracted nationalists, Kemalists, anti-immigrant voters and young voters who were not content with AKP, CHP and MHP and looked for somewhere to go. In the first round of the presidential elections, they voted for Sinan Ogan, who received 5.28% (2.796.613 votes).
In the second round, Ata Alliance broke up, with Ogan joining Erdoğan and the Victory Party (ZP), the main component of the Ata Alliance and its other components supporting Kılıçdaroğlu.
Nationalism played a dominant role in this election and will continue to be very relevant in the period ahead. All the nationalists on the political stage, İYİP, ZP and others are breakaways from the flagship of nationalism, MHP.
The main reason that they had split their ways with MHP was its cooperation with AKP or rather, domination by Erdoğan and the AKP. We will see if these parties will move forward in their present form, form new alliances among themselves or return to their original party, hoping to change it.
The Kurdish-dominated HDP ran in the elections with Green Left Party (YSP) to avoid a possible ban or closure. HDP's election performance in the first round lagged behind expectations but it was still able to receive 4.803.218 votes (8.86%) and send 61 deputies to the parliament.
HDP did not nominate a candidate for president and its voters cast their ballots heavily for Kılıçdaroğlu. The party declared its support for Kılıçdaroğlu in the second round.
But in the second round, some HDP electorate did not go to the ballot box, most probably in protest of the CHP-VP agreement which contains elements they have considered as hostile.
In the run-up to the second round, Kılıçdaroğlu reviewed his policies and made adjustments. As Kılıçdaroğlu managed to garner the support of the Ata Alliance and the so-called ultra-nationalists, he placed security policies and the return of Syrians at the centre of his campaign.
The issue of Syrian refugees in Turkey dominated the elections after the second round as ZP conditioned its support on refugee policies. One of the seven articles of the agreement signed between CHP and ZP is a pledge to send back Syrians in one year.
Against this background, the two candidates were vying for 12 million wildcard votes, including 8.3 million eligible voters who did not cast their ballot in the first round and 2.7 million votes for Sinan Ogan in the first round, which both candidates hoped to benefit from.
The results show that even though Kılıçdaroğlu increased its votes more, Erdoğan was the overall beneficiary.
The two candidates were vying for 12 million wildcard votes, including 8.3 million eligible voters who did not cast their ballot in the first round and 2.7 million votes for Sinan Ogan in the first round. Even though Kılıçdaroğlu increased its votes more, Erdoğan was the overall beneficiary.
AKP maintains its majority in parliament
Parties which did not have the problem of overcoming the 7 percent national threshold entered the elections with their own logos. Parties which knew or thought that they could not reach the national threshold on their own entered the elections as part of alliances. (Nation Alliance, People's Alliance, Labour and Freedom Alliance, and Ata Alliance).
The Nation Alliance comprises the Republican People's Party (CHP), the Democrat Party (DP), the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), the Future Party (GP), the Good Party (İYİP), the Felicity Party (SP) and the Party for Change in Turkey (PCT).
The People's Alliance comprises the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Grand Unity Party (BBP), the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), New Welfare Party (RP), the Free Cause Party (HüdaPar) and the Democratic Left bir Party (DSP).
The unofficial results of parliamentary elections for 600 seats are as follows:
Number of deputies in the new parliament:
People's Alliance: 323
Nation Alliance: 212
Breakdown by party:
The number of deputies of political parties who entered the elections as part of alliances with their own logos or from the lists of other political parties are as follows:
Deva:15 (elected from CHP list)
GP:10 (elected from CHP list)
SP: 10 (elected from CHP list)
DP: 3 (elected from CHP list)
PCT: 1 (elected from CHP list)
Hüdapar: 4 (elected from AKP list)
DSP: 1 (elected from AKP list)
HDP: 59 (elected from GLP list)
At the outset of the election process, expectations were that AKP would lose its majority in parliament. But the results were disappointing for the Nation Alliance as AKP once again won most seats, even though, compared to the 2018 elections, its percentage of votes and number of deputies declined.
There are 15 parties in the parliament. Eleven of them are right-wing, nationalist/conservative.
Leaders of the six political parties of the Nation Alliance will not be in the parliament because they were supposed to be vice presidents and, therefore, did not enter elections to become members of parliament.
The composition of the new parliament does not allow any party or alliance to change the constitution by itself.
To reach the required two-thirds of the deputies (400) to amend the constitution or three-fifths (360) of the deputies to bring the proposed amendments to a referendum. New cooperation arrangements, partnerships and inter-party transfers are likely.
Meanwhile, the number of women deputies in parliament is 121, the highest representation of women in the history of the parliament. 50 women were elected from AKP, 30 from CHP, 30 from Green Left Party, 6 from İYİ Party, 4 from MHP and one from TİP.
The number of women deputies in parliament is 121, the highest representation of women in the history of the parliament.
A deeply divided nation
While Erdoğan received 27.7 million votes, his opponents had almost as much with 25.4 million votes.
Turkish society is deeply divided, and the new president should ideally embrace all.
Not Erdoğan though.
The night he won, he delivered a speech to his flag-waving supporters where he addressed his opponents as LGBT and terror organisation supporters. He also had the crowd boo his opponent Kılıçdaroğlu. If this is how Erdoğan is going to rule, Turks are up for a very tense period ahead.
The night Erdoğan won, he delivered a speech to his flag-waving supporters and had the crowd boo his opponent Kılıçdaroğlu. If this is how Erdoğan is going to rule, Turks are up for a very tense period ahead.
Meanwhile, the losing parties will have to do some soul-searching.
Kılıçdaroğlu said he will continue his struggle but as a leader who lost 10 or so times since he became the leader of his party 13 years ago, the chances of him continuing to lead his party are slim.
İYİP will hold its third ordinary Congress at the end of June. The only woman party leader Meral Akşener is very likely to face challenges.
The economy is a ticking time bomb. Its impact is felt in the daily lives of all citizens. People are very stressed with inflation and the high cost of living. Central Bank reserves are in the negative. Whether the election results will build international confidence remains to be seen.
In his victory speech, Erdoğan said that he managed to overcome economic difficulties before, and he will again.
Erdoğan will form the new government in a few days. All the ministers of his former government, except two who left politics, have been elected to the parliament. It is said that a few of them, such as the ministers of foreign affairs, interior and defence, may return.
The next main event is the municipal elections in March 2024. Erdoğan will fight hard to take back İstanbul, Ankara and other major cities which he lost at the municipal elections in 2019. These elections will also constitute a chance for the opposition to deal a blow to Erdoğan.