Recep Tayip Erdogan, until now Turkey's Prime Minister, has just been elected president in the first-ever direct adult franchise. Comparisons with Vladimir Putin of Russia have been made. Are these accurate or fair? Erdogan certainly wants to retain power but time will tell what his real motives are.
Tuesday August 11, 2014, 11:07 DST
In the first-ever presidential elections held on August 10 under direct adult franchise, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan secured more that 50 percent of the vote, according to Turkey's election board.
“The provisional results show that Erdogan has the majority of the valid votes,” High Election Board chairman Sadi Guven told a news conference in the capital Ankara on Sunday.
“We have received more than 99 percent [of the votes]. Tomorrow [August 11] we will announce the provisional results.”
There were two other candidates in the running: Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and Selahattin Demirtas. Ihsanoglu, an academic and former diplomat who headed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for several years, received 38 percent of the vote while Demirtas secured 10 percent.
Opposition parties led by the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the two largest opposition parties in the country, backed Ihsanoglu but were unable to mount an effective challenge to Erdogan who remains popular in the country.
In a brief statement to reporters in Istanbul following the conclusion of vote counting, the runner-up, Ihsanoglu said: “I congratulate Mr Prime Minister and wish him success.”
There was jubilation in the Erdogan camp but the president-elect who has dominated Turkish politics for more than 10 years, was conciliatory in his approach.
“Today national will and democracy have prevailed again… Today, greater Turkey has prevailed again... With the president being elected by popular vote, obstacles between Cankaya [the presidential palace] and the public have been lifted,” he said.
He went on: “Our political views, lifestyles, beliefs and ethnicities can be different, but we are all offspring of this country. We are all owners of this state... I will embrace all 70 million [Turks] as president.”
Erdogan could not run for another term as prime minister but he wishes to remain in power. He went for the presidency bypassing the incumbent Abdullah Gul who had wanted to retain the post but given Erdogan’s ambition, decided to step aside.
There are likely to be additional changes in the constitution although Erdogan’s party does not enjoy the two-thirds majority in parliament to enact these without the support of other parties. There are indications that smaller parties will back him because they have more to gain from cooperating with the ruling Justice and Development Party than opposing it.
While enjoying the support of a clear majority, Erdogan is seen by some as an autocratic figure. There have been allegations of corruption but these have remained unproven.
The Turkish deep state may have been contained but is still not finished yet. It has its tentacles in many state institutions not least in the armed forces and the judiciary.
Erdogan wants to usher a presidential system of governance that would bring concentrate even more powers in the hands of the president. This would also suit his style of politics.
His supporters see Erdogan as a charismatic leader who has put Turkey on the path to prosperity. While his opponents disagree, there is little doubt that Erdogan has given the rural population that constitutes 60 percent, a stake in the affairs of state and improved their economic lot.
With direct elections and no bar on how many times a person can seek the presidency, it is likely that Erdogan will be around for a long time barring any health issues.
His detractors have already dubbed him the new ‘pasha’ (Sultan/King).