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Editorial

Erdogan, President for Life?

The hopes – and the West’s efforts – to  defeat Erdogan in the elections held a few days ago failed.

Despite governing Turkey during the past 20 years, Erdogan managed to take 49.50% of the vote, leading the country to a runoff election in two weeks.

Usually, after a second term, political leaders lose power. People are by then on the lookout for something new, but Erdogan, during the last 20 years, has weakened the institutions that could have been an obstacle to his plans to stay in office perpetually. Probably most importantly, he has restricted media freedom by having his business friends buy up many media outlets that are not friendly to him, and he has jailed many journalists.

However, even if the elections held last weekend – the Turks voted for members of Parliament too – were not a model of democratic process, as is most likely the case, the fact that the opposition is not crying ‘violence and fraud’ Turkish-style means that they were not far beyond the norm for this country.

So is Erdogan heading towards becoming president for life, something akin to Putin in Russia?

Since the rival six parties who came together to field a common candidate failed to defeat him this time, he may well achieve his goal.

What is the reason for this? In large part, his continued strength is due to the economic boom experienced by the lower financial classes, especially in the hinterland, in the early days of this governance. It is also due to his ability to listen to the grassroots and express their thoughts and feelings.

And another reason, probably of even greater importance, is his upgrading Turkey’s standing internationally. He has claimed the role for his country of a leading regional power.

Indeed, he has clashed with America on many occasions. A few days ago he called on the Turks to give Biden a “response” through their votes.

And he has also cooperated with Putin to the extent that the West no longer trusts him.

Instead, Kilicdaroglu, Erdogan’s rival, promises “a different vision” and a tougher stance against Putin.

That, however, would lead to a normalization of Turkey’s relations with the West and a return to the days of close ties – something that would impact Greek-American relations.

In any event, Erdogan’s possible stay in power makes the re-election of Kyriakos Mitsotakis even more pressing.

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