By Amberin Zaman
ISTANBUL (Al-Monitor) — As Turkey heads for a runoff election in two weeks, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proved once again that he and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) remain unbeatable, leaving the opposition in a state of shock and disarray and likely granting the country’s strongman his dream of reigning over the republic in its 100th year.
Even the most respected pundits got it wrong, predicting in the final days before May 14’s parliamentary and presidential elections that the main opposition’s presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu would win, perhaps even in a first round. The opposition is now left taking credit for denying Erdogan a win in the first round after he failed to secure more than the 50% vote needed to win by a whisker. The Supreme Electoral Board’s latest count shows him with 49.40% of ballots cast versus 44.96% for Kilicdaroglu. Sinan Ogan, a right-wing nationalist contender, trailed in a distant third with 5.2%.
Barring some last-minute twist, Erdogan is widely expected to embark on an unprecedented third decade in power after winning the second round. The 69-year-old leader exuded confidence as he addressed crowds gathered outside his AKP headquarters in Ankara on May 15. “It is our people and country who won. We are not like those who sought to dupe the people, probably for the last time, by claiming they were miles ahead of us,” Erdogan declared.
The AKP and its far-right Nationalist Movement Party partners also prevailed in the 600-member parliament, bagging 322 seats. Kilicdaroglu’s pro-secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) and five other opposition parties united under the Nation’s Alliance came in second with 213 seats and a leftist bloc led by the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party (YSP) pulled in third with 65.
Just how Erdogan managed to pull off another victory in the face of tremendous adversity will be scrutinized for years. The economy is in shambles, with runaway inflation leaving millions of Turks struggling to even afford onions. The massive earthquakes that decimated large swathes of southern Turkey have multiplied their misery. The president and his family, who live in a 1,100-room palace, are tainted by widespread allegations of corruption. Tens of thousands of dissidents are languishing in jail.