In the recent Turkish presidential election, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan emerged victorious in the second round, a result that did not come as a surprise given his extensive experience in Turkish politics. However, what stood out was the narrow margin of victory, with the vote difference between Erdoğan and his opponent once again remaining below 2%. This close contest is viewed as a positive development for democracy.
The impact of the election was evident in the fact that 29 television channels broadcasted Erdoğan's speech live, providing a concise summary of the situation. The absence of a significant gap between candidates since 2014 is considered a significant achievement for Turkish democracy. Had Erdoğan's opponent, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, been elected, the margin would likely have been even narrower, with a strong opposition presence hanging over his administration. Following the announcement of the unofficial results, Erdoğan addressed his supporters, not only asserting his victory but also announcing his goal of regaining control of the Istanbul municipality.
While the Istanbul Stock Exchange experienced a surge in dividends due to the disappearance of political uncertainty, the foreign exchange market remained cautious. Attention now turns to Erdoğan as he continues to advocate for a "low interest-low inflation" policy, despite criticism that this approach, which contrasts with conventional economic theory, is a major contributor to the country's financial crisis and deteriorating macroeconomic indicators. Banks have resorted to indexing the exchange rate to the currency's value to maintain stability and provide account holders with income every three months, but this strategy is not sustainable in the long term.
The opposition's tactical moves between the first and second rounds of the election yielded favorable results. Kılıçdaroğlu's attacks during this period gained him an additional 5% of the vote. The speeches delivered by Kılıçdaroğlu, Meral Akşener, Ali Babacan, and Ahmet Davutoğlu after the unofficial results were announced had a positive impact, particularly on Kılıçdaroğlu's 5 million supporters. These messages effectively conveyed that despite Erdoğan's personal popularity, half of the country's population did not desire the continuation of his rule.
Looking ahead, municipal elections are scheduled to take place in 10 months, and both the opposition and Erdoğan have already initiated preparations. The key question now is whether President Erdoğan, who needs to take significant steps to address the country's economic situation, will pursue the removal of the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara through the court or by order of the Minister of Internal Affairs in the lead-up to the municipal elections. The removal of Ekrem İmamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş, who provided strong support to Kılıçdaroğlu during the election campaign, could yield benefits for Erdoğan and the AKP, but it may also result in backlash. Notably, in December of last year, İmamoğlu was sentenced to imprisonment, which prevented him from running for president. Whether the "Nation's Alliance" can capitalize on the removal of İmamoğlu from office on the path to the municipal elections remains uncertain. At the time of writing, this issue was a matter of considerable importance for Erdoğan and the "Nation's Alliance." Observations suggest that if the "Nation's Alliance" remains intact, their chances of emerging victorious in the March 2024 municipal elections will be more realistic.
It is a defining characteristic of Turkish democracy to outline plans for the next election soon after the announcement of unofficial results.