Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a close re-election contest Sunday, earning another five-year term leading the strategically important NATO ally, his third as president.
Erdogan’s tenure leading Turkey will extend into a third decade, having begun in 2003 as prime minister. His rule has been marked by a significant turn toward authoritarianism, though the 2023 election was closer than prior campaigns.
Erdogan won 52.14% of the vote, according to initial returns reported by Turkey’s Supreme Election Council, narrowly besting rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who won 47.86%. He won by roughly the same margin over Kilicdaroglu that he did two weeks ago in the first round of the vote, but a run-off was required as no candidate reached the 50% threshold. Erdogan’s government had faced significant scrutiny over rising inflation, the cost of living and a poor initial response to a devastating earthquake earlier this year.
Mayor of Istanbul: 1994-1998
Prime Minister of Turkey: 2003-2014
President of Turkey: 2014-current
Electoral history: Has won 11 elections in a row pic.twitter.com/c3uAGx9pTW
— The Spectator Index (@spectatorindex) May 28, 2023
“We are not the only winners, the winner is Turkey. The winner is all parts of our society, our democracy is the winner,” Erdogan said after the results were reported, according to CNN.
Meanwhile, Kilicdaroglu called it the “most unfair election period in our history.” (RELATED: NATO Ally Turkey Blasts Biden As ‘Worthless Opportunist’ For Armenian Genocide Remembrance)
The 2023 election was the first presidential election in Turkey to advance to a run-off, and many polls leading up to election day indicated the opposition candidate, Kilicdaroglu, had a slight advantage.
In the final weeks of the campaign, however, there were a number of controversies seemingly benefitting Erdogan, including criminalizing the spread of “false information” and social media censorship. Elon Musk’s Twitter notably agreed to censor Erdogan’s opposition by his government’s request.
Erdogan was congratulated by a number of foreign leaders on his victory, from American President Joe Biden to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Erdogan has continued to vow he will prevent the expansion of NATO to include Sweden.