Erdogan to chip Russias failing power as Turkish voters head to polls today

Erdogan ‘pretty unhappy’ being humiliated by Putin says Hodges

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been at Turkey’s helm for 20 years, is favoured to win a new five-year term in the second-round runoff after coming just short of an outright victory in the first round on May 14. Voters in Turkey returned to the polls today to decide whether the country’s longtime leader stretches his increasingly authoritarian rule into a third decade or is unseated by a challenger who has promised to restore a more democratic society.

The divisive populist who turned his country into a geopolitical player finished four percentage points ahead of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the candidate of a six-party alliance and leader of Turkey’s centre-left main opposition party.

Erdogan’s performance came despite crippling inflation and the effects of a devastating earthquake three months ago.

Kilicdaroglu (pronounced KEH-lich-DAHR-OH-loo), a 74-year-old former bureaucrat, has described the runoff as a referendum on the country’s future.

Regardless of who wins the Turkish election, Andrea Pető, a historian and a Professor at the Department of Gender Studies at Central European University, Vienna, Austria, believes Turkey’s geopolitical role will go unchanged, especially in relation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He told “Both Turkey and Russia have been regional actors in the past centuries, and this will unlikely change in the coming years.

“The Turkish geopolitical interests and ambitions are not changing that quickly. Erdogan has recognised the weakening Russian geopolitical position and used it to strengthen his own position via negotiations for the grain deal.

“The candidate of the united opposition will also use this conflict to strengthen Turkey’s geopolitical position but maybe using different, less provocative rhetoric, but the bottom line of ‘Making Turkey Great Again’ will not change.”

The historian also argued that, should Erdogan win the election, he will continue to profit from Russia’s weakening power.

He added: “Illiberal politicians never let a crisis go unused to strengthen their power so if Erdogan wins of course he will continue to chip Russia’s failing power.”

More than 64 million people are eligible to cast ballots. The polls opened at 8am.

Turkey does not have exit polls, but the preliminary results are expected to come within hours of the polls closing at 5pm.

The final decision could have implications far beyond Ankara because Turkey stands at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and it plays a key role in NATO.

Turkey vetoed Sweden’s bid to join the alliance and purchased Russian missile-defence systems, which prompted the United States to oust Turkey from a US-led fighter jet project. But Erdogan’s government also helped broker a crucial deal that allowed Ukrainian grain shipments and averted a global food crisis.

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The May 14 election saw 87 percent turnout, and strong participation is expected again Sunday, reflecting voters’ devotion to elections in a country where freedom of expression and assembly have been suppressed.

If he wins, Erdogan, 69, could remain in power until 2028. After three stints as prime minister and two as president, the devout Muslim who heads the conservative and religious Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is already Turkey’s longest-serving leader.

The first half of Erdogan’s tenure included reforms that allowed the country to begin talks to join the European Union and economic growth that lifted many out of poverty. But he later moved to suppress freedoms and the media and concentrated more power in his hands, especially after a failed coup attempt that Turkey says was orchestrated by the US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. The cleric denies involvement.

Erdogan transformed the presidency from a largely ceremonial role to a powerful office through a narrowly won 2017 referendum that scrapped Turkey’s parliamentary system of governance. He was the first directly elected president in 2014 and won the 2018 election that ushered in the executive presidency.

The May 14 election was the first that Erdogan did not win outright.

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