May 28, 2023 - World

Turkey's President Erdoğan wins re-election

Erdoğan. Photo: Cemal Yurttas/Dia images via Getty

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won Sunday's presidential runoff, triumphing over a united opposition and claiming another five-year term.

Why it matters: This was expected to be the most difficult election of Erdoğan's two decades in power.

  • The Turkish strongman was under pressure for high inflation, arguably exacerbated by his economic policies, and for the slow response to a devastating earthquake in February.
  • But Erdoğan is a highly effective campaigner and has an enthusiastic following among more religious and conservative Turks.
  • The result means Erdoğan will continue to be one of the most influential players in both Europe and the Middle East. In the Ukraine war alone, Erdoğan has armed Ukraine with drones, mediated between Ukraine and Russia on grain exports, and blocked Sweden from joining NATO.

By the numbers: Erdoğan led challenger Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu 52% to 48% with 99% of ballots counted, according to Turkish public media.

  • Turkey’s Supreme Election Council confirmed Erdoğan victory, saying the votes that still needed to be counted would not change the outcome of the election.
  • Erdoğan defied polls that showed him trailing Kılıçdaroğlu to beat him by 4.6% in the first round.

What he's saying: “I thank each member of our nation for entrusting me with the responsibility to govern this country once again for the upcoming five years,” Erdoğan told supporters, per AP.

  • “The only winner today is Turkey,” Erdoğan said.

What to watch: Erdoğan has centralized ever more power into his own hands, particularly since surviving a coup attempt in 2016 and overseeing the shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system a year later.

  • Some analysts, such as Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute, have warned that if that trend continues, this could be the last freely contested election as long as Erdoğan remains in power.
  • Election observers from the OSCE found that the first round of voting was free, though Erdoğan's control over state institutions and much of the media gave him an unfair advantage.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

Go deeper: Listen to the Axios Today podcast, where Margaret Talev, filling in for host Niala Boodhoo, shares why Turkish President Erdoğan’s win is both an asset and a challenge for the Biden administration.

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