The year 2023 marks the centenary of the modern Republic of Turkey desired and modeled by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The power, which is preparing for the anniversary with great fanfare, has no hesitation in downplaying its legacy in order to give the AKP credit for the country’s great successes. At the same time, 2023 is also the year of a crucial presidential election for President Erdogan, who has been at the helm of the country for twenty years, but also for Turkey and for Europe given Turkish-European interdependence.
If the election campaign hasn’t started yet, one may wonder if it has ever stopped. President Erdogan raids all media, monopolizes speaking time, inaugurates a bridge one day, a highway another, emerges in front of a flagship of Turkey’s drone industry and is proud of these achievements for the good of his people and the greatness of the Turkish nation. However, behind this smooth picture lies such an unfavorable context that the election scheduled for June could well be anticipated. Erdogan himself indicated this in early January.
The economy is struggling: With an official – and probably underestimated – inflation rate of 85%, the purchasing power of the population continues to fall. Erdogan, who has boasted about the economic performance of his successive governments that have enabled him to win every election since 2002, sees his voting machine deadlocked. But economics doesn’t explain everything.
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While the first half of his reign has been part of an open political and economic liberalism and triumphant soft power abroad, since 2013 the regime has spiraled into an authoritarian current that has made it particularly unpopular at home and in the West. Its foreign policy, which has long been dynamic and successful – there has been talk of a “Turkish model” of democratization and development in the Muslim world – is at an impasse, to put it mildly. The country has isolated itself and attempts to normalize relations with Armenia, Egypt, Israel and soon Syria face ongoing difficulties, with the possible exception of Ukraine, where Turkish mediation appears healthy.
The opposition needs Europe
Another major challenge, the opposition, long divided and disorganized, finally appears to be in better order of battle. In fact, the six parties that form the common front against Erdogan will present only one candidate, who has not yet been nominated at this point. This strategic front worries the power so much that on December 15, 2022, Ekrem Imamoglu, mayor of Istanbul and likely opponent of Erdogan, was charged with insulting institutions. If his conviction is confirmed, he risks a two-year prison sentence, which will bar him from all political activities for five years and leave the field open to Erdogan.
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