Will Erdogan be able to rule for another 5 years?

2023-05-30 09:04:00, Kosova & Bota CNA
Will Erdogan be able to rule for another 5 years?
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again emerged victorious in Sunday's presidential election. In a tight race, he secured 52 percent of the vote in the second round on May 28, beating his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu by a 4 percent margin . With increasing challenges from his previous terms, the next 5 years will be one of the most challenging for President Erdogan.

The biggest and most urgent crisis it is facing is that of the national currency, the lira. Since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2018, it has lost over 450 percent of its value against the US dollar.

In the run-up to the election, the Turkish Central Bank sold billions of dollars to prevent the Turkish lira from slipping past the psychological $20 mark. While these efforts may have created the illusion that the currency crisis is under control, it depleted the Central Bank's net foreign reserves to the lowest level since 2002. With the elections over and the Central Bank's reserves depleted, the lira is likely to experience another free fall.

To stop the rapid devaluation of the currency, President Erdogan will have to change the so-called "unorthodox" monetary policies and restore the independence of the Central Bank. Despite the apparent currency crisis, and conventional economic theory contradicting his position, President Erdogan has stubbornly held to the highly unusual view that higher interest rates lead to higher inflation.

He made it clear during the campaign that he intends to continue with these economic policies even after the elections. Over the past few months, the Turkish Central Bank has borrowed tens of billions of dollars from the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

However, this cash injection was not a regular foreign investment, but aimed at helping President Erdogan win the elections. In one of his last speeches, President Erdogan himself described these money transfers as a "relief" for which he would express gratitude after the elections.

In the event that these funds were intended to guarantee a more friendly attitude from Ankara in the geopolitical scene, or to have concrete economic or political favors, this remains to be seen. Russia is another country that played an important role in helping to continue Erdogan's rule. In May, Ankara and Moscow agreed to postpone until 2024 payments for Russian natural gas.

Will Erdogan be able to rule for another 5 years?

The bill to be paid to Russia could reach up to $4 billion by next year. By avoiding most Western sanctions and strengthening economic ties with Russia, but also by selling military drones to Ukraine, President Erdogan was able to naturally position himself in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

It was clearly in Putin's interest to help his counterpart Erdogan stay in power, rather than see his more pro-NATO opposition rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu come to power. However, the energy bill from Russia will come one day, further worsening President Erdogan's chances of escaping the crisis.

In September 2022, President Erdogan promised to build 500,000 new homes if elected for another 5 years in office. The construction sector, which serves as the engine of the Turkish economy, relies heavily on imported materials. So if the lira continues to fall, it will become increasingly difficult to afford imports at such high levels.

To make matters worse, in February of this year a strong earthquake struck Southern Turkey killing over 50,000 people and displacing over 2 million people. The government promised the rapid reconstruction of all affected areas within a year.

In addition to the economic crisis, another topic of discussion on the next mandate of President Erdo?an is his health. At the age of 69, his energies seem to be waning. During a live television interview at the height of the campaign, he fell ill, leading to the cancellation of all planned visits and rallies for the next 3 days.

In another live interview, he was seen sleepy before the camera quickly cut away. Videos circulating on social networks also show that the president has difficulty walking. While speculation about his health has been rife, the government consistently downplays any concerns.

In the 2019 local elections, the opposition regained control of many major cities, including Ankara and Istanbul. It was the biggest election victory they had ever achieved during President Erdogan's two-decade rule. The next local elections will take place in March 2024.

In his victory speech on Sunday, President Erdogan called on his supporters to help him regain control of these cities. His strategy is likely to continue to focus on polarisation, accusing the opposition over the next 10 months of being aligned with terrorists and pro-LGBT.

Will Erdogan be able to rule for another 5 years?

Another issue expected to dominate the Turkish agenda in the coming years is immigration. Turkey currently hosts around 4 million refugees, mostly Syrians, the world's largest number of refugees in one country. Between the first and second round of elections, the opposition and the government engaged in a bidding war, promising the repatriation of Syrians.

President Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) pledged to return at least 1 million refugees within a year. But repatriating such a large number of refugees without committing serious human rights violations, and creating a new migration crisis on Europe's southern borders, will require a comprehensive deal with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

But the Syrian Foreign Ministry has made it clear that "as long as there are Turkish troops on Syrian soil, there will be no normalization of relations between Damascus and Ankara." However, relinquishing the areas controlled by the Turkish Armed Forces in northern Syria, and therefore reducing Ankara's "war on terror" against Kurdish insurgent groups in the region, is unlikely to happen.

With the cost of living crisis worsening, President Erdogan will need more than ever to rally support under the nationalist banner of the war on terror. The voices of the opposition who claim that President Erdogan has zero chance to lead the country for another 5 years in the mess he himself created, are meaningless.

Since coming to power in 2002, he has repeatedly defied all odds and expectations. He has made new alliances, broken old alliances, gone to war and brokered peace. However, regardless of whether it is the problems of the economy, health or immigration, he faces one of the most difficult challenges in his political career./ Adapted from CNA.al

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