Second Round in Turkey’s Election: A Third Term with Erdoğan

By Zeynep Önal Aytaç



After an intense election campaign and resultless first round, Turkey once again voted for its new president and reelected incumbent president Erdoğan for the new term. Now, it is clear that Erdogan has secured his third term as president and 30 years as the leading actor in Turkish politics. Since the ambiguity has been solved, the recent inquiry is what is expected for the country for upcoming years. Before coming there, here is a short review of the second round.    

The second and final round in Turkey’s presidential elections took place on May 28, and incumbent president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been reelected for five more years. With this victory, Erdoğan has guaranteed his position as the country's ruling power for the last 30 years. Despite the opposition's cooperation and high energy in the elections, results showed that they did not successfully reach the capillaries of Turkish society. While inflation is soaring, the cost of living is rising, and the opposition is consolidating politics, Erdogan has eliminated every disadvantageous dynamic and succeeded in winning this election by securing 52% of the votes. There are certain factors that shape election results, such as the roust effect in voting behaviour, Syrians who get citizenship and vote, Kilicdaroglu's incompetent runoff strategy, and the nationalist candidate & first round's kingmaker Sinan Ogan’s support to Erdogan. However, Erdogan’s victory is still shocking and unexpected in some parts of society.


On the night of May 28, the result was celebrated by Erdoğan and his supporters in every city until the morning. Erdogan has enjoyed his new term by singing songs and making a victory speech that escalated polarization by targeting the opposition and mocking the opposition leader. On the other side, the opposition candidate, Kılıçdaroğlu, and the opponent voters have faced colossal disappointment. Erdoğan was in the most vulnerable position in his political career of the last 20 years because of the worsening socio-economic conditions in Turkey. Apparently, for the opposition, losing this race during Erdoğan’s most vulnerable days would be more complicated than winning. However, Kılıçdaroğlu lost and only won 48% of the vote against Erdogan. After these results, a considerable portion of the supporters of the opposition has expected a resignation from Kılıçdaroğlu for CHP's party chairperson position.[i] However, Kılıçdaroğlu gave a short brief on election night and described the May 28 election as “the most unfair election in recent years.” Other than this brief, Kılıçdaroğlu didn’t provide a comprehensive evaluation or any self-criticism for the election failure. Erdoğan’s victory and Kılıçdaroğlu’s attitude in the post-election period have created devastation for the 48% who voted for the opposing party.  Within the CHP circle, there is rising demand and anger from the grassroots to the party administration for change and accountability toward the voters. However, until today, Kılıçdaroğlu and the party elites seem quite reckless to calls. 


As an interesting fact, apart from an exception, like in the first round election, all polls have failed to catch an appropriate sample and measure the society's tendency. After the elections, this situation has been explained by the roust effect among the voters. Some analysts have claimed that a “quiet electorate” group doesn’t want to state their support for Erdoğan in public discussions, open mics, and polls. Besides, another group not noticed by the polls or analysis is seen as Syrians 'refugees' or, in their official naming, Syrians under a temporary protection program in Turkey. Since 2011, the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Turkey has hosted an enormous number of Syrians by framing them as the ones under a temporary protection program in line with European deals and agreements. Thus, many Syrians get Turkish citizenship after a few years. Researchers claim this group is generally invisible in polls and strongly support Erdogan because of his open-door policy for asylum seekers. For the runoffs, when we consider Kılıçdaroğlu’s harsh rhetoric on sending refugees home, Erdoğan had an advantage against Kılıçdaroğlu among this demographic. In any case, Erdoğan has won a clear victory. From Kılıçdaroğlu's side, there are also various reasons which cause the defeat. The period to runoffs showed that Kılıçdaroğlu did not have a tangible strategy in the event of a runoff. Within two weeks of the runoff, Kılıçdaroğlu waited four days to become visible in the public realm and launch the second election campaign. He sharply changed his rhetoric during this period and adopted a more tough guy image instead of a super chill and inclusive attitude. While returning from the pro-Kurdish party HDP, he officially negotiated and allied with the ultra-nationalist, far-right Zafer Party. The duality and inconsistent attitude have created an ambiguous atmosphere for the voters. In short, it can be said that Kilicdaroglu’s runoff campaign process was incompetent for a presidential candidate. As a last major factor, the nationalist candidate, Sinan Ogan, who was eliminated in the first round, has turned into a kingmaker with his 5% vote for the runoffs. Ogan’s decision and navigation to his supporters would have a decisive influence on the results. In the campaign process, Erdogan met with Ogan and gained his support for the runoffs. By doing so, Erdogan secured a significant part of the 5% vote and strengthened his hand. The aforementioned factors shaped voting behaviour and determined the new president for five years.  


Since the uncertainty has been removed from Turkish politics, Erdoğan’s roadmap and policy agenda have become the new riddle for political debates. To predict Erdoğan’s future projection, society closely watches his actions and speeches. In this regard, ministry appointments provided some preliminary clues for the near future. For instance, as an urgent problem in Turkey, the economy and its new minister was expecting huge interest. Former finance minister Mehmet Simsek, an internationally respected banker, has been appointed by Erdoğan as a new Minister of Treasury and Finance for this new term. In his first speech, Simsek promised to return to “rational ground” for the economy. By returning, Simsek most probably mentions Erdogan's conventional economic policy which assumes that high-interest rates cause high inflation, has damaged the Turkish economy, and sharply decreased the Turkish lira’s value. Erdoğan’s unorthodox economic policy was criticized by various economists and Simsek’s preliminary speech revealed that international norms will be adopted in the economy.[ii] The positive reactions to Simsek’s “rational ground” speech and its implications have shown the need and passion among Turks to see rational and free political policies.[iii] Apart from preliminary clues, there is growing concern about Erdoğan’s roadmap for the upcoming term. For some, Erdoğan will polarize the country more than ever and increase his authoritarian tendencies. In the long run, we will see how Erdoğan and his cabinet adopt an attitude in the economy, foreign policy, and domestic issues for five years.


[i] Aydın, Selçuk, et al. “Turkey Elections: Why Did Kilicdaroglu Lose?” Middle East Eye, Accessed 10 June 2023.

[ii] Uras, Umut. “Can Market Veteran Simsek Pull Turkey’s Economy Back from Brink?” Business and Economy News | Al Jazeera, 5 June 2023,

[iii] Nevzat Devranoglu. “Turkish Economy to Return to ‘Rational Ground’, New Finance Minister Says.” Reuters, 4 June 2023,