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What is Erdogan to do to win the presidential race in 2023?

photo: akparti.org.tr
29 July 2022
Amur GadzhiyevAmur Gadzhiyev

Amur Gadzhiyev

Candidate of historical sciences, CISS expert

What is Erdogan to do to win the presidential race in 2023? Before answering this question, let us first turn to the results of recent sociological surveys in Turkey. For example, according to June 2022 survey by SONAR, if Turkey was to elect its President soon, the incumbent President and the leader of the Justice and Development Party (JDP) Recep Tayyip Erdogan would poll 40.2% votes.

Mansur Yavaş, the Mayor of Ankara (member of the opposition Republican Peoples Party [RPP]) follows next with 17.8% votes, then comes Meral Akşener, the leader of  the Good Party (iyi Party in Turkish) (10.4%), Ekrem mamoğlu, the oppositional Mayor of Istanbul (10.1%), Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) (4.6%), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, RPP leader (4.3%), Devlet Bahçeli, the Chairman of the Nationalistic Movement Party (NMP) (2.2%), Muharrem nce, the Homeland Party leader (2.1%), Ali Babacan, the Chairman of the Democracy and Progress Party (DPP) (1.7%), etc.

According to another survey by Eurasia research company, if all the Turkish parties make their nominations for the presidential race, Erdogan can poll 29.8% votes. At the same time, 29.8% are ready to cast their votes for Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, for Meral Akşener (the Good Party) 12.5%, for Mithat Sancar, the co-chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 9.8%, for Ali Babacan (DPP) 6.3%, for Devlet Bahçeli (MNP)  6%, for Ahmet Davutoğlu, the leader of the Party of the Future (PF) 1.5%, for  () Temel Karamollaoğlu, the leader of the Felicity Party (FP) 1.2%, etc.

Hence, according to the first survey outcome, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is slightly behind the «collective opposition» (40.2% vs. 44.3%), however, as per the second survey, Erdogans positions are rather unstable 29.8% vs. 50.3%. And this is without the potential votes for the pro-Kurdish PDP.

We can have long discussions about the conflicts within the «collective opposition», about the recent meeting (the fifth one already) of the top-six of the oppositional National Block on July demonstrating its effective incapability. And this is not an exaggeration, because the top six oppositional parties are from elaborating a single political program, and the main agenda of such meetings is focused on the following two topics collective action against Erdogan and the proposal for strengthening the parliamentary system in the country.

At the same time, the main problem persists, and this is lack of a worthy oppositional candidate for presidency. Even if the top six parties nominate a single candidate from the opposition, he is forecasted to play the role of a «bit player» of this top-six, i.e., of political forces with different ideologies acting on the basis of their own political programs and having their own plans with respect of power distribution within the potential coalition government.

At the same time the surveys also prove that we should not underestimate the Turkish opposition, especially, in the context of gradual decrease of the ruling partys popularity. It is obvious, that to become an absolute frontrunner of the presidential race, which has effectively started in Turkey, Erdogan needs to constantly demonstrate various success stories.

Let us try to analyze, in which sphere and in what areas Erdogan may implement some breakthrough decisions. It should be taken into account: the overwhelming majority of Turkish citizens (about 75.4% of the respondents) believe that the key challenges of today are of economic character, such as drastic depreciation of the Turkish lira, unemployment and significant surge in prices.

Economic initiatives

Firstly, Recep Tayyip Erdogan seriously believes that his monetary policy will bring certain results by the end of 2022 already. It should be emphasized: his persistency in maintaining and even sometimes decreasing the key interest rate of the Central Bank is not in line with the conventional economic theory, according to which the inflation should be counteracted by increasing the CB interest rate. It means that the standard process should look as follows: the Central Bank increases the rate, the banks adjust their rates for loans and deposits to the higher CB rate making the borrowings more expensive and the deposits more beneficial. Respectively, the citizens monies are accumulated at the deposits, the money supply is shrinking, and all this results in slowdown of inflation.

However, in Erdogans opinion, it is possible to counteract inflation in quite the opposite way, i.e., by decreasing the CB interest rate. He believes, this should make the cheap money accessible to the population and help increase the output of the Turkish goods to be exported. The resulting currency gain will be sold in the internal market, the exchange rate of the Turkish lira will grow stronger, and the inflation will slow down.

In case such approach based on encouraging the export and the tourism sector in every possible way turns out to be a success, Erdogan may be praised as an «innovator economist», which automatically will make him the main author of the national development model forcing away Turgut zal  the initiator of social and economic reforms in Turkey in late 20th century.

Secondly, Erdogan is active in implementing the concept of Turkey as the main regional transportation, logistic and energy hub. By 2023, it may turn into brilliant prospect for Turkey, and simultaneously provide for additional budget inflow.

Thirdly, several major infrastructure projects are expected to be coming on stream in 2023 including industrial, energy and logistic projects.

Foreign policy specifics

Other potential initiatives relate to foreign policy, which is a special focus of Erdogan. Reinforcing international positions and potential of Turkey positively affects the popularity of Erdogan and JDP government in the context of approaching presidential and parliamentary elections.

Turkey continues to position itself as one of the influence centers of multi-polar world. The strive for participating in global governance is reflected in the well-known Erdogans formula «the world is more then just five» (referring to the permanent members of the UN Security Council). Erdogan rejects all the blames of trying to keep a foot in several shoes. He claims that he is forming his own foreign policy with the growing multi-vector character reflecting the demand of the Turkish society for revision of the relations with the West, which Erdogan cannot ignore any more and does not want to ignore.

In the environment, when the opposition promises to shut down the USA and NATO military bases in the territory of Turkey after coming to power, and against the background of regular rallies against the Western policy, Erdogan could make some radical steps in this direction in order to increase the number of his supporters. If not shutdown the American base, then at least significantly decrease the number of American servicepeople in Turkey.

In the context of cooling in relations with the Western entities, Turkey is demonstrating the growing interest to developing contacts with BRICS and SCO. It is obvious that Erdogan could gain in popularity in case of filing the Turkish bids for accession to these organizations. Previously, Ankara several times informed about its interest in closer contacts with BRICS and SCO. The probability of filing the accession bids is estimated as quite high. Rapprochement with BRICS and its member-countries is an especially popular idea in the Turkish society.

In general, Erdogan will continue its policy aimed at improving the countrys image and strengthening its international positions. It is also possible, that Turkey will file a bid to the International Olympic Committee for hosting the summer Olympics of 2036 in Istanbul. 

Regional plans

To attract the nationalistic votes, Erdogan may use the Greece and Cyprus factors. Any heavy-handed actions and even hardball rhetoric with respect to Greece will be an absolutely safe bet for Erdogan. On the Cyprus issue, Erdogan will continue to be very persistent in his position, i.e., demand the establishment of two separate independent states on the island. It is evident, that the Cypriot party will be strongly against such scenario. The is why, the negotiations will not be resumed. However, in reality it is beneficial for Erdogan, because in this situation he may resume drilling activities to produce hydrocarbons in the offshore exclusive economic zone of Cyprus, which will be very positively received in Turkey. 

Currently Ankara is actively promoting the idea of the Turkic world integration, where Turkey will play the leadership role. Organization of Turkic states was established, and probably Erdogan will present new interesting initiatives within this organization. Recently, the tri-lateral summit of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan took place resulting in signing the Baku Declaration. The preparation of the summit of Tukey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan is underway. Ankara is improving its regional positions, developing its trade and economic capabilities, expanding the transport and logistical connections, enhancing cultural and humanitarian contacts with the key countries of the region.

It should be stated that Turkey is generally satisfied with the settlement in Karabakh. Together with the Russian Federation, Ankara is participating in the joint monitoring center. The fact that the Western countries do not participate in this settlement is very important for Turkey. The efforts continue on de-blocking the regional transport communications and normalizing the Turkish-Armenian relations. The most recent agreements between Turkey and Armenia on opening of the borders for the citizens of Third Countries and on starting the direct air freight transportation provide evidence of the parties intent to achieve significant progress in normalizing their bilateral contacts.

The opening of the borders should positively affect the regional situation, as it will allow for transport communications expansion and logistics improvement, which will be especially important for the economies of the neighboring countries including Turkey. Currently, in the framework of normalizing the Turkish-Armenian relations the key focus is on economic and transport/logistic issues, which facilitates this process, because it is not connected with political and historic problems.

That is why it is possible to assume that in the short-term and in the mid-term this process will continue to progress on the basis of certain mutual understanding on economic development, trade and logistics  becoming an important diplomatic victory of Erdogan. It should be expected that he will continue to develop this foreign policy route.

As for the relations with the Middle East and North Africa countries, currently they are also progressing. Ankara is gradually curtailing its contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood (the terrorist organization banned in the RF). It will positively affect the regional agenda and will be supported by conservative and secular groups in Turkey. The refusal from supporting the anti-governmental groups in the Arab world opens the way for Ankara to improve the relations with the authorities in this region, which is positively received in Turkey.

The settlement of the refugees problem in Turkey is to a great extent dependent on Ankaras policy on Syria. A serious breakthrough in this area would provide substantial advantages and bonus points to Erdogan versus his political opponents. In addition, in the context of rejecting the East Mediterranean pipeline construction project (EastMed), Erdogan may propose his alternative project with Turkey playing the key role.

Trade and economic cooperation with Russia

Big opportunities for President Erdogans political capital improvement are provided by the projects of economic interaction between Turkey and Russia, with the potential of the sales turnover between the two countries making USD 100 bn very soon. Together with the already implemented projects (the Turkish Stream gas pipeline) and the projects currently underway (the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant) this will provide the blank check for the incumbent President of Turkey and significantly strengthen his political position.

The Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, just like other joint energy-related projects, brings Turkey to the community of the advanced regional countries, and will allow for the practical implementation of the concept of turning the country into the energy hub with the following monetization of this process, which will be absolutely beneficial for the overall economic situation and well-being of the Turkish citizens. 

Another important project is the development of efficient aerospace defense system in Turkey, considering the growth of political military tension in the region, active development of missile technologies in the neighboring countries and tension between Ankara and Greece (constantly instigating Turkey). So that is not just the national prestige issue, but also a paramount necessity. In this context, Erdogan could significantly strengthen his political capital by executing the second contract with Russia for purchasing another regimental package of the long-range air defense missile systems S-400, constituting the foundation of any reliable air defense.

Summarizing all the above, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has something he could demonstrate to the voters. During the period of his presidency, Turkey has achieved obvious progress and tangible results. But, and Erdogan himself talks about it, it is important to make the general public aware of the essence and the importance of the success of Turkey during the recent two decades. And the incumbent Presidents team still has to do a lot of serious and extensive work.

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Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
Publications

What is Erdogan to do to win the presidential race in 2023?

photo: akparti.org.tr
29 2022
Amur Gadzhiyev

Amur Gadzhiyev

Candidate of historical sciences, CISS expert

What is Erdogan to do to win the presidential race in 2023? Before answering this question, let us first turn to the results of recent sociological surveys in Turkey. For example, according to June 2022 survey by SONAR, if Turkey was to elect its President soon, the incumbent President and the leader of the Justice and Development Party (JDP) Recep Tayyip Erdogan would poll 40.2% votes.

Mansur Yavaş, the Mayor of Ankara (member of the opposition Republican Peoples Party [RPP]) follows next with 17.8% votes, then comes Meral Akşener, the leader of  the Good Party (iyi Party in Turkish) (10.4%), Ekrem mamoğlu, the oppositional Mayor of Istanbul (10.1%), Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) (4.6%), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, RPP leader (4.3%), Devlet Bahçeli, the Chairman of the Nationalistic Movement Party (NMP) (2.2%), Muharrem nce, the Homeland Party leader (2.1%), Ali Babacan, the Chairman of the Democracy and Progress Party (DPP) (1.7%), etc.

According to another survey by Eurasia research company, if all the Turkish parties make their nominations for the presidential race, Erdogan can poll 29.8% votes. At the same time, 29.8% are ready to cast their votes for Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, for Meral Akşener (the Good Party) 12.5%, for Mithat Sancar, the co-chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 9.8%, for Ali Babacan (DPP) 6.3%, for Devlet Bahçeli (MNP)  6%, for Ahmet Davutoğlu, the leader of the Party of the Future (PF) 1.5%, for  () Temel Karamollaoğlu, the leader of the Felicity Party (FP) 1.2%, etc.

Hence, according to the first survey outcome, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is slightly behind the «collective opposition» (40.2% vs. 44.3%), however, as per the second survey, Erdogans positions are rather unstable 29.8% vs. 50.3%. And this is without the potential votes for the pro-Kurdish PDP.

We can have long discussions about the conflicts within the «collective opposition», about the recent meeting (the fifth one already) of the top-six of the oppositional National Block on July demonstrating its effective incapability. And this is not an exaggeration, because the top six oppositional parties are from elaborating a single political program, and the main agenda of such meetings is focused on the following two topics collective action against Erdogan and the proposal for strengthening the parliamentary system in the country.

At the same time, the main problem persists, and this is lack of a worthy oppositional candidate for presidency. Even if the top six parties nominate a single candidate from the opposition, he is forecasted to play the role of a «bit player» of this top-six, i.e., of political forces with different ideologies acting on the basis of their own political programs and having their own plans with respect of power distribution within the potential coalition government.

At the same time the surveys also prove that we should not underestimate the Turkish opposition, especially, in the context of gradual decrease of the ruling partys popularity. It is obvious, that to become an absolute frontrunner of the presidential race, which has effectively started in Turkey, Erdogan needs to constantly demonstrate various success stories.

Let us try to analyze, in which sphere and in what areas Erdogan may implement some breakthrough decisions. It should be taken into account: the overwhelming majority of Turkish citizens (about 75.4% of the respondents) believe that the key challenges of today are of economic character, such as drastic depreciation of the Turkish lira, unemployment and significant surge in prices.

Economic initiatives

Firstly, Recep Tayyip Erdogan seriously believes that his monetary policy will bring certain results by the end of 2022 already. It should be emphasized: his persistency in maintaining and even sometimes decreasing the key interest rate of the Central Bank is not in line with the conventional economic theory, according to which the inflation should be counteracted by increasing the CB interest rate. It means that the standard process should look as follows: the Central Bank increases the rate, the banks adjust their rates for loans and deposits to the higher CB rate making the borrowings more expensive and the deposits more beneficial. Respectively, the citizens monies are accumulated at the deposits, the money supply is shrinking, and all this results in slowdown of inflation.

However, in Erdogans opinion, it is possible to counteract inflation in quite the opposite way, i.e., by decreasing the CB interest rate. He believes, this should make the cheap money accessible to the population and help increase the output of the Turkish goods to be exported. The resulting currency gain will be sold in the internal market, the exchange rate of the Turkish lira will grow stronger, and the inflation will slow down.

In case such approach based on encouraging the export and the tourism sector in every possible way turns out to be a success, Erdogan may be praised as an «innovator economist», which automatically will make him the main author of the national development model forcing away Turgut zal  the initiator of social and economic reforms in Turkey in late 20th century.

Secondly, Erdogan is active in implementing the concept of Turkey as the main regional transportation, logistic and energy hub. By 2023, it may turn into brilliant prospect for Turkey, and simultaneously provide for additional budget inflow.

Thirdly, several major infrastructure projects are expected to be coming on stream in 2023 including industrial, energy and logistic projects.

Foreign policy specifics

Other potential initiatives relate to foreign policy, which is a special focus of Erdogan. Reinforcing international positions and potential of Turkey positively affects the popularity of Erdogan and JDP government in the context of approaching presidential and parliamentary elections.

Turkey continues to position itself as one of the influence centers of multi-polar world. The strive for participating in global governance is reflected in the well-known Erdogans formula «the world is more then just five» (referring to the permanent members of the UN Security Council). Erdogan rejects all the blames of trying to keep a foot in several shoes. He claims that he is forming his own foreign policy with the growing multi-vector character reflecting the demand of the Turkish society for revision of the relations with the West, which Erdogan cannot ignore any more and does not want to ignore.

In the environment, when the opposition promises to shut down the USA and NATO military bases in the territory of Turkey after coming to power, and against the background of regular rallies against the Western policy, Erdogan could make some radical steps in this direction in order to increase the number of his supporters. If not shutdown the American base, then at least significantly decrease the number of American servicepeople in Turkey.

In the context of cooling in relations with the Western entities, Turkey is demonstrating the growing interest to developing contacts with BRICS and SCO. It is obvious that Erdogan could gain in popularity in case of filing the Turkish bids for accession to these organizations. Previously, Ankara several times informed about its interest in closer contacts with BRICS and SCO. The probability of filing the accession bids is estimated as quite high. Rapprochement with BRICS and its member-countries is an especially popular idea in the Turkish society.

In general, Erdogan will continue its policy aimed at improving the countrys image and strengthening its international positions. It is also possible, that Turkey will file a bid to the International Olympic Committee for hosting the summer Olympics of 2036 in Istanbul. 

Regional plans

To attract the nationalistic votes, Erdogan may use the Greece and Cyprus factors. Any heavy-handed actions and even hardball rhetoric with respect to Greece will be an absolutely safe bet for Erdogan. On the Cyprus issue, Erdogan will continue to be very persistent in his position, i.e., demand the establishment of two separate independent states on the island. It is evident, that the Cypriot party will be strongly against such scenario. The is why, the negotiations will not be resumed. However, in reality it is beneficial for Erdogan, because in this situation he may resume drilling activities to produce hydrocarbons in the offshore exclusive economic zone of Cyprus, which will be very positively received in Turkey. 

Currently Ankara is actively promoting the idea of the Turkic world integration, where Turkey will play the leadership role. Organization of Turkic states was established, and probably Erdogan will present new interesting initiatives within this organization. Recently, the tri-lateral summit of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan took place resulting in signing the Baku Declaration. The preparation of the summit of Tukey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan is underway. Ankara is improving its regional positions, developing its trade and economic capabilities, expanding the transport and logistical connections, enhancing cultural and humanitarian contacts with the key countries of the region.

It should be stated that Turkey is generally satisfied with the settlement in Karabakh. Together with the Russian Federation, Ankara is participating in the joint monitoring center. The fact that the Western countries do not participate in this settlement is very important for Turkey. The efforts continue on de-blocking the regional transport communications and normalizing the Turkish-Armenian relations. The most recent agreements between Turkey and Armenia on opening of the borders for the citizens of Third Countries and on starting the direct air freight transportation provide evidence of the parties intent to achieve significant progress in normalizing their bilateral contacts.

The opening of the borders should positively affect the regional situation, as it will allow for transport communications expansion and logistics improvement, which will be especially important for the economies of the neighboring countries including Turkey. Currently, in the framework of normalizing the Turkish-Armenian relations the key focus is on economic and transport/logistic issues, which facilitates this process, because it is not connected with political and historic problems.

That is why it is possible to assume that in the short-term and in the mid-term this process will continue to progress on the basis of certain mutual understanding on economic development, trade and logistics  becoming an important diplomatic victory of Erdogan. It should be expected that he will continue to develop this foreign policy route.

As for the relations with the Middle East and North Africa countries, currently they are also progressing. Ankara is gradually curtailing its contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood (the terrorist organization banned in the RF). It will positively affect the regional agenda and will be supported by conservative and secular groups in Turkey. The refusal from supporting the anti-governmental groups in the Arab world opens the way for Ankara to improve the relations with the authorities in this region, which is positively received in Turkey.

The settlement of the refugees problem in Turkey is to a great extent dependent on Ankaras policy on Syria. A serious breakthrough in this area would provide substantial advantages and bonus points to Erdogan versus his political opponents. In addition, in the context of rejecting the East Mediterranean pipeline construction project (EastMed), Erdogan may propose his alternative project with Turkey playing the key role.

Trade and economic cooperation with Russia

Big opportunities for President Erdogans political capital improvement are provided by the projects of economic interaction between Turkey and Russia, with the potential of the sales turnover between the two countries making USD 100 bn very soon. Together with the already implemented projects (the Turkish Stream gas pipeline) and the projects currently underway (the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant) this will provide the blank check for the incumbent President of Turkey and significantly strengthen his political position.

The Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, just like other joint energy-related projects, brings Turkey to the community of the advanced regional countries, and will allow for the practical implementation of the concept of turning the country into the energy hub with the following monetization of this process, which will be absolutely beneficial for the overall economic situation and well-being of the Turkish citizens. 

Another important project is the development of efficient aerospace defense system in Turkey, considering the growth of political military tension in the region, active development of missile technologies in the neighboring countries and tension between Ankara and Greece (constantly instigating Turkey). So that is not just the national prestige issue, but also a paramount necessity. In this context, Erdogan could significantly strengthen his political capital by executing the second contract with Russia for purchasing another regimental package of the long-range air defense missile systems S-400, constituting the foundation of any reliable air defense.

Summarizing all the above, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has something he could demonstrate to the voters. During the period of his presidency, Turkey has achieved obvious progress and tangible results. But, and Erdogan himself talks about it, it is important to make the general public aware of the essence and the importance of the success of Turkey during the recent two decades. And the incumbent Presidents team still has to do a lot of serious and extensive work.