By Lorenzo Somigli
Two different political options for crisis periods
The Turkish people voted and reconfirmed their trust in Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s imperial vision. Contrary to what so many Western media described, the clash between the two candidates was not between “Right” and “Left”, between “conservation” and “progress”, or between “Islam” and “Kemalism”. This interpretative apparatus does not capture the “Turkish prism” in all its complexity and gradients; on the contrary, it offers a distorted and banal image.
The Anatolian peasant, stocky and tough as represented by “The Man of the Earth” by Neşet Günal (“Toprak Adam”, 1974), visible in the Istanbul Modern Museum, has the same dignity as the more westernized urban elites of Istanbul. And given that Turkey’s strength is the “strength in numbers”, the Anatolians shift the balance.
In truth, the duel embodied by the two challengers was between two visions for the “The Century of Türkiye”: the continuation of Erdoğan’s imperial mandate, with its various declinations (foreign policy, energy policy) or a more protective and attentive to the social needs approach expressed by Kılıçdaroğlu, in anticipation of times that will be complex for the entire global economy.
In short, these are two different and fiercely opposing visions, but they start from a shared value: “Türkiye must have role, status, and dignity” – as the ICYF President Taha Ayhan encapsulated it recently during his FLEP program. “It is the country’s historical vertical along with its geographic centrality that offers Türkiye a power projection in both Heartland and the Rimland.” Moreover, the country is a fundamental partner of NATO with an increasing strategic autonomy.
The global upheavals certainly influenced the outcome of the vote: faced with so much uncertainty, Turkish people preferred the reliability of the current President. Likewise, the two candidates gave voice to two social bodies with real aspirations and needs. The outcome has rewarded the outgoing President, but the opposition has weight and represents a social body, even not homogeneous, that can have an impact.
The analysis of the vote: communication, opposing territories, earthquake
They were the most critical elections for 100 years, as demonstrated by the high participation (88% and 85%) and the need for a further step, the runoff.
The two candidates set up two very different electoral campaigns: Erdoğan impersonated an imperial Türkiye with inaugurations and huge crowds (and a “top gun”-style photo) while Kılıçdaroğlu spoke to the “gut of the country” by publishing many videos – deliberately of low quality – from his home in which he denounced the economic crisis facing the country.
Erdoğan kept the Anatolian strongholds and held on to some earthquake-hit provinces, such as Gaziantep (nearly 60% in the first round), not Adana. The vote of the coasts is also interesting given that Turkey overlooks two seas, Akdeniz (White Sea) and Karadeniz (Black Sea): Kılıçdaroğlu scored higher percentage in the Mediterranean coast (over 50% in Antalya) while the Black Sea voted for the President, as in the Trabzon case (65%).
Istanbul rewarded the opposition, but Erdoğan did not collapse: 48.56% (4.928.772) against 46.68% (4.738.680); the same dynamic for Ankara, where Kılıçdaroğlu won with 47%. The provinces where the Kurdish people are present –Mardin, Batman, Van and Diyarbakır (Kılıçdaroğlu over 70%) above all – located on the border, the water crossing between the Tigris and Euphrates, vote convincingly for the opposition.
Regarding the vote for the assembly, it should be noted that: the Cumhur coalition lead by the current president remains first and the AKP leads it with more than 30% and should go from the current 288 seats to 266, while the MHP (10 %) from the current 48 to 50; the Kemalist party CHP of the opposition candidate (25%) is growing significantly, which should go from 134 to 169 elected, and so also the İYİ Parti (9%) which should increase its seats from 36 to 44; the Yeşil Sol Parti (green and progressive party) obtained about 10% and won the seats (62), in the Kurdish areas, overtaking the CHP itself and the coalition of Kılıçdaroğlu. Certainly, having obtained the majority in parliament provided extra assist to Erdoğan.
Erdoğan’s project: energy and food autonomy, infrastructure, Islam
The confirmed president, the former mayor of the megalopolis on the Bosphorus, has spearheaded a twenty-years period of change for Türkiye. Türkiye has developed a world-class industrial and manufacturing system and has enhanced the extraction capacities of minerals and natural resources.
Türkiye has become a checkpoint for hydrocarbons flows which reach the Old Continent from the heart of Asia; in the meantime, it has increased the share of energy produced from renewable sources. In addition, the new Akkuyu nuclear power plant, which received its first shipment of nuclear fuel in May, could produce up to 10% of the electricity Türkiye needs.
Furthermore, Türkiye is one of the leading global grain producers. Cereal production occupies about 75% of cultivated land in Türkiye. With a production of wheat (about 21 million tons) and barley (about 9 million tons), Türkiye is one of the world’s largest producers. Besides cotton and tobacco, sugar beet is another important industrial crop (about 22 million tons). In 2020, Türkiye exported nearly 1780 different types of agricultural products to 240 countries for a total of $21 billion.
So, the basis of Turkish development is progressive energy and food autonomy – a strategy to respond to global resource shortages accelerated after the Russian invasion. In the face of industrial development, which has been rapid, Islam remains an indispensable social glue: it guarantees continuity in discontinuity.
- Anadolu Ajansı, Seçim 2023: https://secim.aa.com.tr/
- Iea.com, https://www.iea.org/countries/turkiye
- Akkuyu.com, http://www.akkunpp.com/
- Tarımsal Araştırmalar ve Politikalar Genel Müdürlüğü, https://www.tarimorman.gov.tr/TAGEM
Lorenzo Somigli was born in Florence (IT) in 1996. He is a journalist and press officer; assistant to the Chamber of Deputies he follows the Environment Commission. He has reported in Lebanon and Türkiye; writes on energy and geopolitics for Transatlantic Policy Quarterly magazine.