by instituDE, published on 22 May 2023


OSCE says Turkey's election board showed a lack of transparency in elections

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported that Turkey's High Election Board (YSK) displayed a lack of transparency in handling elections on May 14 and that the state media's partial coverage of the election was concerning.

OSCE delegation said the ruling alliance and the current president Erdogan allegedly had an unfair advantage over the opposition, which had to contend with unfair campaigning conditions.

Turkish opposition contests thousands of ballots after elections

The main opposition party in Turkey said on May 17 that it had submitted several complaints about alleged irregularities at thousands of vote boxes in Sunday's elections.

According to Muharrem Erkek, a deputy chairman of the Republican People's Party (CHP), abnormalities at each voting box ranged from a single incorrectly counted vote to hundreds of such votes.

Kilicdaroglu takes a harder line on immigrants before the runoff

On May 17, President Erdogan's rival in the race for the presidency accused the government of allowing 10 million "irregular" migrants to enter the country and signaled a nationalist shift in his rhetoric before a runoff election on May 28.

In a video released on Twitter, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the opposition bloc's presidential candidate, warned that the number of migrants could reach 30 million in the following years and vowed that they would not abandon the homeland to the mindset that had allowed 10 million irregular migrants to settle in the country. Kilicdaroglu also encouraged voters to come to the polls to show their love for the country.

First round's candidate expected to announce his support on May 22 for a runoff

According to journalist Fatih Altayli, ultra-nationalist politician Sinan Ogan, who came third in the first round of the presidential election, will publicly declare his support for a candidate on May 22 for the runoff election on May 28.

Ogan, the ultra-nationalist ATA (Ancestral) alliance candidate, received 5.2 percent of the votes on May 14. No candidate was able to secure an absolute majority in the first round.


Turkish stock market index falls sharply after election results

Following the closely contested election on Sunday, Turkish stocks dropped sharply on May 15 morning. The election results set up a runoff between incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu. 

According to market statistics, the BIST 100 index of the Borsa Istanbul began down more than 6% before recovering to a 2.6% loss. The dramatic fall forced regulators to halt trading temporarily.

Turkey's net FX reserves reach the 21-year low before runoff

The week ending May 12 saw a $4.45 billion decline in the net international reserves of the Turkish central bank, reaching a 21-year low of 2.33 billion dollars, according to official figures released on May 18.

The bank's total gross reserves fell 9 billion to 105.13 billion dollars in the same week, the lowest level since July 2022. According to bankers and analysts, the move underscored the government's efforts to stabilize the lira.

As the central bank resumed gold sales, the decline in gross reserves, including gold and foreign currency, reached 23.6 billion dollars this year.

Since the end of March, gold reserves have decreased by around 9 billion dollars, to 44.3 billion dollars, as the central bank sold its reserves to meet domestic demand after placing restrictions on gold imports.

Central bank orders banks to limit cash advance withdrawals from credit cards

To slow the rush to foreign exchange and gold purchases, the Turkish Central Bank decided to make cash withdrawals and jewelry purchases via credit cards more expensive. 

Bank said the new decision would apply to cash withdrawals and jewelry purchases made using credit cards beginning from May 16.

But the central bank later backed down in its decision, which significantly impacted the market. The bank announced that no restrictions would be applied to using cash advances from credit cards.


Black Sea grain deal extended for another two months

The Ukraine-Black Sea grain deal has been extended for two months. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced the extension on May 17 in a broadcast speech, and Russia, Ukraine, and the United Nations later confirmed it.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres praised the extension as good news for the world. Previously Russia threatened to withdraw from the deal due to barriers to its grain and fertilizer exports.

Turkey criticizes US for anchoring its destroyer in Greek Cypriot Port 

The Turkish Foreign Ministry accused Washington of destabilizing the balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean in its statement dated May 17. "The steps taken in the region by the US which disrupt the balance at the expense of the Turkish Cypriot side damage that country's long-standing neutral position," the statement said, adding, "We invite the United States to reconsider these policies."

Ankara claims that Washington has abandoned its impartial stance in disputes. Washington rejects the criticism, stating that the purpose of its military presence in the region is to limit Russian military influence there in light of the conflict in Ukraine.


"A general evaluation on the 14 May elections" by Bahadir Gulle, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy

Erdogan finished ahead in the first round of the elections, and losing in the second round is almost impossible. He received the support of all state institutions, media outlets and nearly half of the public. A high-spirited Erdogan with a majority in the parliament would likely increase his votes even more and be easily elected in the second round.

With this election, Turkey has determined its direction as total authoritarianism. What is meant by total authoritarianism is not the restriction of certain existing freedoms but the elimination of the possibility of restoring freedoms that have already been destroyed.

Nobody understands the secret of Erdogan's success. They ask why these people still support him. Erdogan has only one secret. Thanks to Erdogan, they don't feel like the "other". This place is yours, Erdogan says. The opposition does not understand this feeling. People vote for this feeling.

With the state's and Erdogan's agreement, all obstacles to authoritarianism have been removed. The only power that could prevent this was those who wanted change within the state. They had to be dismissed and easily dismissed on July 15. They did so easily, with the full support of the current opposition.

The days ahead are dark. The country's problems will continue to grow. The economy cannot recover because they can't go back to law. However, we should not lose hope because they have set up a system that cannot continue. They could not build a system that could neither be sustained economically nor would the institutions of the state perform their essential functions. Change is inevitable. This regime will go away no matter how painful it is. They will leave as they cannot manage to govern. Circumstances will give birth to new actors whose names we do not know today.

"Erdogan scores win through culture wars and soft authoritarianism" by Ishaan Tharoor, The Washington Post

Rather than trailing Kilicdaroglu, Erdogan had a comfortable lead by nearly five percentage points and was in a whisker of a contest-clinching victory with almost 50 percent of the vote. Instead, the two will face each other in runoff election May 28, though most experts now think the incumbent's return to power is a fait accompli. 

The result demonstrated how Erdogan is able to maneuver the levers of the Turkish system over which he holds sway. 

On the campaign trail, Erdogan also channeled the fears among religious Turks of a return to an earlier era of militant secularism, championed for decades by the predecessors to Kilicdaroglu's Republican People's Party, or CHP. The scaremongering and culture warring seemed to work in Turkey's hinterlands, where Erdogan draws the bulk of his support. 

Outside major coastal cities, the capital Ankara and Kurdish-majority areas, the opposition left-right alliance "failed in the rest of the country," tweeted Soner Cagaptay, senior fellow at the Washington Institute, adding that it was in these places "where Erdogan demonized HDP support for Kilicdaroglu and his Alevi identity to shuffle the electorate along a right vs. left split, benefiting his right-wing block."

Nor did anger about shoddy construction projects in the Erdogan era that collapsed after February's earthquake have much of an electoral impact. 

The lesson seems stark: In this moment in Turkish democracy, perhaps in democracies everywhere, identity politics trumps all.

"Recep Tayyip Erdogan confounds predictions in Turkey's election", The Economist

Short of an outright victory for Turkey's authoritarian leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it was the worst result the country's opposition could have imagined. Mr. Kilicdaroglu's alliance, headed by his own Republican People's Party (CHP), performed even worse in the parliamentary vote, where it had won only 35.1%, which Turkey's complex electoral system is projected to translate into about 213 out of the 600 seats.

Mr. Ogan may now be able to play kingmaker. But so, underwhelming was Mr. Kilicdaroglu's performance that the CHP leader would have to woo nearly all of Mr. Ogan's voters to have a shot at winning the second round. That seems unlikely. For the first time in his career, Mr. Erdogan had entered the elections trailing his main rival in the polls. He now appears the clear favourite to win in the second round.

The key to Mr. Erdogan's success in the first round was that he convinced enough voters that the election was less about the economy, plagued by 43% inflation, than about identity, national pride, and security, says Ahmet Han, an international relations professor at Beykoz University.

Five more years of rule by Mr. Erdogan would entrench his brand of autocracy. An opposition victory in the runoff, though now looking unlikely, would offer a chance to restore democratic rule and a path to economic stability.

"What Does Turkey's Election Mean for the World?" by Emma Ashford and Matthew Kroenig, Foreign Policy

MK: Erdogan won a plurality, but not a majority, of votes, so it will go to a runoff election. But some of the voters for the now-eliminated candidates are likely to swing to Erdogan. If so, that will be too bad for Turkish institutions and also, potentially, for the NATO alliance. But I think Washington will need to manage with several more years of Erdogan in power.

EA: Erdogan's victory will not be good for the Biden administration, though I'm less convinced it's bad for the United States more generally. Erdogan has always been very transactional and self-interested; not the ideal ally, but you can work with him. But President Joe Biden's choice to emphasize democracy as the most important facet of US foreign policy makes it more difficult to do so. 

I don't think the Turks are good allies. I'm not convinced it's a great idea to have them in NATO. But the last couple of years have also highlighted that the country still has significant geostrategic importance—look at its role controlling access into the Black Sea—as well as a key role to play in mediating between the West and other parties.

MK: OK. We are not as far apart as I thought. Turkey is not a great ally, but Washington and Ankara still have shared interests when it comes to Iran, terrorism, and for some aspects of the Russia problem. I agree that it occupies an important geopolitical position. And given that Turkey is a long-standing member of NATO, it doesn't make sense to kick them out as some have suggested.

"US braces for another Erdogan era in Turkey" by Elizabeth Hagedorn, Al-Monitor

The Biden administration is bracing for another five years with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in power after Turkey's longest-serving leader finished with a more than four-point lead in the May 14 elections. 

Erdogan's better-than-expected performance fueled accusations of voter fraud. Kilicdaroglu's Republican People's Party (CHP) filed a complaint with Turkey's election board but acknowledged the suspected irregularities at thousands of ballot boxes were not enough to alter the election outcome. 

Asked about the tight race, President Joe Biden told reporters Sunday, "I just hope … whoever wins, wins. I mean, there's enough problems in that part of the world right now without that happening."

Biden's team has another reason to stay neutral: avoiding the crosshairs of Erdogan's conspiracies. During the final stretch of the campaign, the Turkish president said Biden "gave the order to topple Erdogan." Last month, Turkey's interior minister similarly warned of a "political coup attempt" organized by Washington.