Erdogan cements grip on Turkey

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by his wife Emine Erdogan, addresses his supporters following early exit poll results for the second round of the presidential election in Istanbul, Turkey May 28, 2023. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared victory Sunday in a historic runoff vote that posed the biggest challenge to his 20 years of transformative but divisive rule.

The 69-year-old leader over￾came Turkey’s biggest economic crisis in generations and the most powerful opposition alliance to ever face his Islamic-rooted party to take an unassailable lead. Near complete results showed him leading secu￾lar opposition rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu by four per￾centage points.

“We will be ruling the country for the coming five years,” Erdogan told his cheering sup￾porters from atop a bus in his home district in Istan￾bul. “God willing, we will be deserving of your trust.” Turkey’s main cities erupted in jubilation as Er￾dogan spoke. Traffic on Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square ground to a halt and huge crowds gathered outside his presidential palace in Ankara. Turkey’s longest-serving leader was tested like never be￾fore in what was widely seen as the country’s most consequential election in its 100-year history as a post-Ottoman republic. Kilicdaroglu cobbled together a powerful coa￾lition that grouped Erdogan’s disenchanted former allies with secular nationalists and religious conser￾vatives.

He pushed Erdogan into Turkey’s first runoff on May 14 and narrowed the margin further in the second round. Opposition supporters viewed it as a do-or-die chance to save Turkey from being turned into an autocracy by a man whose consolidation of power rivals that of Ottoman sultans. “I invite all my citizens to cast their ballot in or￾der to get rid of this authoritarian regime and bring true freedom and democracy to this country,” Kilic￾daroglu said after casting his ballot on Sunday.

Kilic￾daroglu re-emerged a transformed man after the first round. The former civil servant’s message of social unity and freedoms gave way to desk-thumping speeches about the need to immediately expel mi￾grants and fight terrorism. His rightwing turn was targeted at nationalists who emerged as the big winners of the parallel par￾liamentary elections.

The 74-year-old had always adhered to the firm nationalist principles of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk — a revered military commander who formed Turkey and Kilicdaroglu’s secular CHP party.

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