Istanbul - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a new five-year term in hand after prevailing in a runoff election that opposition members hoped would unseat him amid a cost-of-living crisis.
Erdogan won Sunday's second round with 52.2% of the vote, besting opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu's 47.8%.
Turkish President and People's Alliance's presidential candidate Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures to supporters at the presidential palace, in Ankara, Turkey, May 28, 2023.
'I thank each member of our nation for entrusting me with the responsibility to govern this country once again for the upcoming five years,' Erdogan told his supporters. 'I would like to thank all our citizens who showed their will for the future, both for themselves and their children, by casting their votes in the elections.'
Kilicdaroglu did not dispute the outcome, but called the election the 'most unfair' in recent years.
'All the means of the state were mobilized for a political party,' Kilicdaroglu said. 'All possibilities were laid under one man's feet.'
Turkish CHP party leader and Nation Alliance's presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu makes a statement at CHP headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, May 28, 2023.
Erdogan was seen as the front-runner heading into Sunday's vote after narrowly missing victory in the first round.
Critics accused Erdogan of undermining democracy, locking up critics and centralizing power. Kilicdaroglu had pledged to return Turkey to parliamentary democracy and to release prominent political prisoners.
Bugra, a voter who only wanted to be identified by his first name, said democracy itself is on the ballot.
'People's rule, the republic, these are the values we have come here to defend. For 20 years, this government has only been trying to lead us to a legitimate monarchy, trying to make the parliament dysfunctional,' he said.
But Erdogan played the nationalist card, accusing his challenger of being soft on terrorism, and insisting that the country needs strong leadership to stand up to Turkey's Western allies and navigate the dangerous challenges posed by a neighborhood that includes Syria and Ukraine.
It is a stance that resonated with another voter, Yunus Koz.
'It is very important. I am a Muslim, I am Turkish, I love this homeland very much, and I want my homeland to remain in the hands of Tayyip Erdogan. The other side [Kilicdaroglu], wants it to be in the hands of imperialist powers,' Koz said.
Supporters of Turkish President wave a flag depicting Recep Tayyip Erdogan in front of AK Party's headquarter in Istanbul on the day of the Presidential runoff vote in Istanbul, on May 28, 2023.
Among those congratulating Erdogan after his election win were Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. Among Western organizations and leaders to congratulate him were the European Union and NATO, U.S. President Joe Biden French President Emmanuel Macron, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who referred to Erdogan as his 'dear friend,' claiming the Turkish people appreciate Erdogan's independent foreign policy.
Much to the concerns of Turkey's traditional Western allies, Erdogan has developed a close relationship with Putin despite Russia's Ukraine invasion. A relationship Erdogan vowed to deepen during his election campaign.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.