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In the Wake of the Elections in Turkey: A New Era Begins

The 12th and current President of The Turkish Republic, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, secures victory in Turkey’s presidential election in 2023 and remains in his political position, marking a significant political breakthrough. As a result of the election, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) extended their rule into a third decade gripping power, authority, and dominion. On the other hand, a fragment of the population, including the supporters of the main opposition party called the Republican People’s Party (CHP) resumed criticizing Erdogan and the government whilst having serious concerns about the course of the country. Before the election, Erdogan and his party published a 481-page declaration listing their aims and promises for the forthcoming era.

The 2023 elections in Turkey observed a heated multi-party contest that cast divergent political views and expectations of subculturally diverse individuals. AKP and its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan gained a remarkable victory but also encountered a striking depreciation and decline in support from voters compared to prior elections. SWP (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik), a German institute for international and security affairs, has previously stated that the election in 2023 would be the first election in which Erdogan was not the clear ideal for the country’s president. The main opposition party CHP beheld insufficient but outstanding political growth, obtaining an increased split of the vote. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) successfully managed the election process and ensured its resuming presence in Turkey’s politics under the Green Left Party's name (YSP). In the meantime, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) preserved its impact and ascendancy as the coalition partner of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party AKP. According to Anadolu Agency, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan propelled 49.4% and the opponent candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu 43.12% of the voters in the first round. Read more about the first round of the Turkey elections 2023 here. In the second round of the election, Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK) announced that Erdogan achieved a victory gaining 52.14% of the votes while Kilicdaroglu gained 47.86%. The outcome of the two rounds of Turkey’s presidential election revealed Erdogan’s significant influence on his electors and his opponent Kilicdaroglu’s ability to gain votes from various sociocultural fractions of the population.

In the weeks following Turkey’s 2023 presidential election, economic recovery is a top priority with several concerns appearing due to hyperinflation, unemployment, and devalued currency. Financial suffering and the struggle to make a living in the country impel people to express apprehension. Turkish citizens convey deep distress regarding the devaluation of the Turkish Lira and the imbalance in foreign exchange rates. According to BBC, Turkish people are in the grip of a cost-of-living crisis. BBC states President Erdogan pledged to address and eliminate the current account deficit issue in the country’s economy. Inflation, around 40%, is aimed to be reduced to single digits. During the forthcoming era, the minimum wage hike is set to pass the inflation rate, ensuring financial stability and ameliorating conditions for employees. Furthermore, the dedication to employee welfare comprises provisions for a share of benefits. Remarkably, a minimum wage arranged for July this year was one of the promises made by the jurisdictions in the declaration. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security announced a minimum wage of 11,402 Turkish Liras on June 20. The new head of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, Vedat Isikhan, asserted the ministry has recognized an interim increase at a rate including welfare share, exceedingly over the inflation rate of 34%. The declaration demonstrated the government’s intent to lower unemployment to below 7% and achieve a total employment figure of 36 million. Earlier in March 2023, the number of employed individuals reached 31.4 million while the unemployment rate stood at 10%. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate moderately increased to 10.2% in April. Despite President Erdogan’s promises relating to the instability of the economy, Turkey’s latest statistical values reveal that the country’s economy is likely to remain unreliable. Perhaps with the employment of the new head of Turkey’s Central Bank, Hafize Gaye Erkan, who was engaged from the United States after Erdogan was re-elected as president, the country hopefully aims to improve these statistics. Read more about Hafize Gaye Erkan here.

President Erdogan has set various goals to achieve to maintain justice in Turkey in the upcoming period. In Erdogan’s 481-page pre-election declaration, a new constitution that is widely participated, pluralist, and libertarian is targeted. In addition to an updated version of the constitution, a promise of Legislative Reform in the Political Parties Law, the Election Law, and the Parliamentary Bylaws exist. President Erdogan promises to prioritize personal freedoms and rights while making implementations like arrest and custody compatible with the outlined law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). However, Erdogan’s political decisions contradict the statements in the declaration. For instance, the decisions on the cases of a Zaza Turkish lawyer, politician, and author Selahattin Demirtas, and a Turkish businessman, human rights defender, and activist Osman Kavala were not shaped according to ECHR’s necessities.

In addition to pledges in regard to the judicial system in Turkey, President Erdogan and his party AKP have particular goals to achieve in the upcoming years concerning family, women, and LGBT+ rights. In the pre-election statement, Erdogan underlines a constitutional amendment to protect the family established by marriage between women and men. The emphasis on “the family established by marriage between women and men” reveals Erdogan and his party AKP’s prejudice against the LGBT+ community and opposition to the community’s desire for earning rights and freedoms. The statements in Erdogan’s 481-page pre-election declaration, “We will take measures to protect ourselves from all kinds of harmful tendencies that threaten our families, principally our children”, are a demonstration of anti-LGBT expression, which Erdogan routinely repeated at his crowded rallies, specifically during the propaganda period before the election. Moreover, Erdogan continually referred to the opposition as “LGBT” in his pre-election speeches and his speech after the election. Erdogan has caused controversial dissension concerning women’s rights in Turkey. In the declaration, violence, abuse, and murders against women are referred to as factors that discredit the family and familial structure. In the pre-election statement, Erdogan and his party AKP promised to focus on protective and preventive measures for the elimination of violence against women, to ensure more effective monitoring and follow-up of protective measures, and to improve the service capacities of the units that provide services to victims of violence. Nevertheless, AKP agreed to the amendment of Law No. 6284 on the Protection of the Family and the Prevention of Violence Against Women in its protocol with the Re-Welfare Party (YRP) at the end of the day. Additionally, Erdogan withdrew an international contract called the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, in March 2021 using his political entitlement as the President of Turkey, in the absence of a reasonable explanation. The official website of the Istanbul Convention highlights that the convention, which has been accessible for signature in Istanbul since 2011, is the most comprehensive and guiding regional agreement focused on violence against women and domestic violence. It is considered the most important instrument and influence in the fight against violence against women. According to a platform established to publicize femicides in Turkey, the number of reported femicide in the country between 2010 and 2020 was 2534.

Throughout the post-electoral interval in Turkey, there is a growing inquisitiveness among Turkish citizens regarding the approaching foreign policy behavior of their country. Numerous residents along with the leader of the main opposition party CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, have expressed disturbance about the favorable treatment and privileges permitted to Syrians and Afghans occupying Turkey. Kemal Kilicdaroglu communicated his worries about Syrian refugees changing Turkey’s demographic structure and promised Turkish citizens during the pre-election period to send Syrian and Afghan asylum seekers and refugees to their home countries safely. Furthermore, Kilicdaroglu declared the border is an honor explaining the reason that the border is the area where Turkey’s sovereignty borders are determined. While observing Kilicdaroglu gathering support for his promise, Erdogan pledged to ensure and increase the voluntary, safe, and dignified return of asylum seekers and refugees in Turkey in the pre-election statement. This has flared a controversial debate on whether President Erdogan will actively encourage Afghan and Syrian asylum seekers and refugees to return to their respective home countries. Currently, encouraging Syrian refugees to leave Turkey, with a total number of 3,351,582 in June 2023, does not seem among the most prioritized targets Erdogan and his government have in their schedule. On the contrary, according to the data announced by Turkey’s Refugee Association in May, the number of registered Syrians decreased by 154,569 since the beginning of the year 2023. In the declaration, Erdogan affirms that the aim of normalization in relations with Syria in terms of foreign policy will continue. He also states that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will take measures toward becoming a full European Union (EU) member.

Turkey enters a new era of its political pathway during the post-election period in 2023. As Turkey and its government combat economic obstacles, challenges caused by the country’s national legal system, controversial debates on human rights, and foreign policy precedence, Erdogan’s political judgment in the coming weeks will shape the country’s future course. The main opposition party continues to disapprove of Erdogan’s conclusions and attitude. On the other hand, Erdogan’s victory brings forth opportunities for him to ensure stability in various means in Turkey.

Written by Eylül Naz Çetin

Edited by Melisa Altıntaş and Yağmur Ece Nisanoğlu

Works Cited

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