Erdogan Wins Reelection

What the Campaign Revealed About the Future of Turkish Politics

Erdogan addresses supporters in Istanbul on election night, June 24 2018. Kayhan Ozer / Presidential Palace / REUTERS

On Sunday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a second term as president of Turkey. He secured more than 50 percent of the vote, avoiding the need for a runoff. His Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost ground in the parliamentary election, but Erdogan will keep his majority in parliament thanks to a strong showing by his allies, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Muharrem Ince, the leading opposition contender and the candidate of the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP), received over 30 percent of the vote. That represents the best result for a social democrat in Turkey in over 40 years. After the official Anadolu news agency announced the results, Ince said that the election had not been fair but that he accepted that Erdogan had won.

Even though Erdogan secured enough votes to avoid a second round, the campaign has revealed Turkey’s future leaders. For the first time since he came to power 15 years ago, as prime minister, Erdogan has had to cope with challengers who represent rising societal trends: social democracy and the nationalist right. As well as Ince’s challenge from the left, Erdogan faced Meral Aksener, the leader of the right-wing nationalist Good Party. Aksener should have been in a better position than Ince, since two-thirds of Turks identify as pious, nationalist, and conservative, and less than one-third identifies as of the left, as social democrats, or as socialists. But a change may be in the making.


Parties of the right have long dominated Turkish politics. A social democratic party has triumphed in only one election and that was 40 years ago, in 1977. The right has gained mass support by recasting class conflict as culture war. People who, in other countries, would form the base of support for center-left parties—peasants, workers, and those in the lower middle class—have rallied to populist conservatives who appeal to their religion and their resentment of the urban elite. Many of the well-to-do have a Westernized outlook, which has made it easy for

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