Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, has won the country’s first direct presidential election. The win has ensured that the 60-year-old leader, who is in his third term as prime minister, will remain at the helm of Turkey for another five years.
This was Erdogan’s ninth consecutive election victory including referendums and municipal polls and Sunday’s result strengthens his position as Turkey’s most powerful ruler since the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was president in the 1930s.
Erdogan beat Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, former chief of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Kurdish candidate Selahattin Demirtas with a margin of nine percent.
For his supporters, he is the leader who boosted the economy and lent voice to conservatives while his opponents criticise his authoritarian approach and Islamist leanings in a secular state.
The market reacted positively to Erdogan’s victory with the Turkish currency — Lira — gaining yesterday. Turkey has emerged as a regional economic force under Erdogan, who got support of religious conservatives to transform the secular republic. But observers are now concerned about the concentration of powers in the hands of a single leader. In the past, Turkey’s presidents have been ceremonial figureheads, but Erdogan says he intends to change the constitution and establish an executive presidency.
The current constitution would enable him to chair cabinet meetings and appoint the premier and members of top judicial bodies including the constitutional court and supreme council of judges.
There are fears that convergence of power may weaken the checks and balances in the country which are essential for a healthy society.
Another concern is that Turkey may lean towards a conservative society from a secular one.
The expanses of the conservative Anatolian heartlands voted overwhelmingly for Erdogan, the more liberal western Aegean and Mediterranean coastal fringe was dominated by main opposition candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, and the southeastern corner by Kurdish candidate Selahattin Demirtas. The voting pattern may prompt him to work for selective regions and people. Rather than ruling for a particular section of society, Erdogan should use his emphatic victory to send the message that he would work for all. He should frame policies to create an inclusive society. The inclusive approach will not only speed up the pace of development but also help him win another term. Another challenge for Erdogan is to sustain and speed up economic development.
The economic policies of new leaders must be framed in way to create trust among foreign investors. In a world, which is heavily interconnected, Turkey cannot afford to walk alone on the path of development•