After victory, Erdogan faces new challenges

By Sajjad Malik
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 28, 2018
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan [Photo/Xinhua]

If you are living in Turkey and support its strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then you have a reason to feel elated. One might even say that Turkey has found a true leader, a century after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk created the republic in 1923.  

Erdogan's outright victory in the presidential and parliamentary elections has been deemed historic. He took a risk by announcing snap polls in April – more than a year before they were due – and fought a multi-pronged battle to defeat his opponents.

Turkish media reported that he won more than 53 percent of the popular votes – higher than the mandatory 50 percent to avoid a second round – while his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) trounced his opposition coalition to clinch a comfortable lead in the 600-member parliament.

Erdogan's main opposition and center-left Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate Muharrem Ince ran a spirited campaign and fought bravely but won only 31 percent of the votes.

An important electoral outcome was the success of pro-Kurdish HDP party that took 11.67 percent of the votes and crossed the threshold of 10 percent to join the parliament for a second consecutive term.  

Turkish popular sentiments are based on old-style nationalism and the resurgence of conservative Islam. Erdogan's reputation as a hero of pro-Islam groups and individuals are beyond question. He added a heavy dose of nationalism to ultimately win over the hearts and minds of his people.

He skillfully used religious-nationalistic sentiments to defeat the domestic revisionist forces in July 2016 when he stood up against the rebelling troops. His gesture united the country despite deep divisions between secular and Islamic elements.  

Erdogan's win comes at a time when last year's constitutional changes are coming into effect. The office of prime minister has been abolished, allowing Erdogan to  make all key appointments himself, ranging from ministers to judicial offices. 

His executive presidency is even more powerful than America or France and can be used either for prompt decision-making or instituting an authoritarian rule due to lack of checks and balances. 

The electoral victory comes at a crucial juncture. Turkey has been facing challenges like terrorism, a slowing economy, threats of Kurdish separatism, war near the border in Syria, and a complex battle of regional politics that seems to be going nowhere. 

As a shrewd politician, Erdogan has no problem confronting these issues. He also enjoys solid public support from a powerful section of the country. He has the freedom to basically do whatever he wants due to unfettered constitutional powers. 

The question remains: Is his free range of power enough to fight the multiple challenges and take Turkey to the heights of greatness? 

Power and commitment are helpful, but it largely depends on how Erdogan plays his cards. His timing in the past was often perfect. For example, last year he decided to hold a referendum on constitutional changes and won. 

He ruled over a strong economy, which has lately began to show signs of weakness. Criticism has come from all sides due to inflation – around 11 percent – and the weakening Turkish lira. 

Erdogan announced snap polls when Turkish forces captured Afrin across the border in Syria to give a telling blow to the Kurdish forces active in the area. Thus, he successfully neutralized the economic downturn with the good news from across the border. 

He also used the gains against the Kurdish Worker' Party (PKK) in Turkey and its affiliate groups in Syria during his campaign. Later, he said in his victory speech that "Turkey voted for a decisive fight against the PKK."

Fight against Kurdish and IS militants will remain Erdogan's primary concern. The issue is not easy to tackle due to instability and ongoing fighting in neighboring Syria. The second major challenge is how to accelerate Turkey's economy.  

Another challenge is that Erdogan only has support from half the population. The other half often accuses him of highhandedness against media and political opponents. 

The state of emergency imposed after the failed coup is still in place. With the alleged arbitrary removal from service and imprisonment of thousands of people, including journalists, there is fear that his executive presidency may slip in a one man dictatorship. 

Sajjad Malik is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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