What are the foreign policy consequences of Erdogan’s renewed victory in Türkiye? The defeat of Kiliçdaroglu, who promised to set the country on a more democratic and cooperative path, is likely to be cheered in Moscow. However, she may be mourned in western capitals because Türkiye has taken a more confrontational and independent stance on foreign policy.
His financial means, which he was able to use compared to the opposition alliance of freedom, were too powerful. The disinformation and defamation campaigns with armies of trolls on the Internet, as well as the alleged sending and indirect financing of two alternative presidential candidates on the starting line-up to avoid an imminent defeat in the first ballot, and the massive election fraud complained about by the opposition were ultimately too much for that last rebellion of democracy.
The shameless handing out of cash at election campaign appearances, the never-ending bad checks that Erdogan, with the financial support of his friends in Moscow and Doha, had distributed to the population, including the civil service, in order to save his power, have not failed to have an effect. The power to mobilize was on his side, and the political nuclear fission between urban coastal regions and the Anatolian interior unfolded with ice-cold calculation for him and his AKP the inverse power of a nuclear fusion, which now ensures his and his regime’s survival in the long term. The free-democratic world says with tears in its eyes: Goodbye Türkiye!
Under Erdogan, Türkiye has demonstrated its military might in the Middle East and beyond, forging closer ties with Russia. At the same time, relations with the European Union and the United States are becoming increasingly strained. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Erdogan has performed a diplomatic “balancing act” by defying Western sanctions against Russia while simultaneously sending drones into Kiev.
According to experts, Erdogan does not want to break completely with the West, but only wants to go his own way. He will likely continue to have a contentious and complicated relationship with the West. From a European perspective, some key conclusions can be drawn. On the one hand an economic consequence and on the other hand an electoral and constitutional political consequence: Economically, Türkiye will face difficult times. The disempowerment of the Turkish central bank and its quasi-political incorporation into the presidential office will not make it possible to contain hyperinflation, but will intensify it and perpetuate it in the long run.
While most Turks have maneuvered their way through the difficult hyperinflationary phase as far as possible with intra-family help, this power of resistance at the level of the individual economic entity will be worn down and eroded over time. Frustration and stifling of any entrepreneurship whose fruits are eaten up by inflation before they can be reaped will lead to economic paralysis and apathy.
The lack of own energy raw materials, which instead have to be procured with scarce foreign exchange on the world markets, will further weaken the Turkish economy in terms of current account and balance of payments. The external value of the Turkish lira will continue to fall, and the borrowing capacity in the capital markets is becoming tighter and tighter for the country. Non-compliance with international payment obligations and thus technical state bankruptcy seems inevitable if Erdogan’s policy is continued.
Erdogan’s election victory will neither end the rampant inflation nor make international investors suddenly invest more money in Türkiye again. The country is stuck in a persistent, deep economic crisis.
It could still be good for the summer. The low prices are likely to attract tourists, and billions in money from Russia and Arab countries are helping the Turkish financial system. But in the fall, when tourism revenue plummets, heating needs to be restored, and Turks have to pay energy bills with their weak currency, things could go downhill very quickly. Erdogan would then finally have to raise interest rates, as is usual in the rest of the world when prices are rising. If not, the Turks could suffer even more than before. There could also be an accelerating brain drain: a year and a half ago, 72.9 percent of 18 to 25 year olds said they wanted to leave the country. Some called themselves “Erdogan refugees”. You could get serious now.
A kind of cynical hope could be heard from some experts and politicians in Brussels before the run-off election: Better to continue with Erdogan, to whom one has become accustomed, than a wild transfer of power and a possibly more uncomfortable Turkish government. Now it really goes on as before – and that’s exactly the problem. The EU’s relationship with Türkiye, and in a different way that of the US, is what experts often call “transactional”: reduced to vested interests. Be it in security policy or migration issues. Formally, the country is still an EU accession candidate, but this status has little to do with the real relationship.
It is unclear how Erdogan will deal with Europe after his victory – for years he has alternated between sober interest politics and loud rants. For him, Europe is a necessary partner and enemy at the same time. And the other way around, Germany in particular is entangled with Türkiye in a way that actually makes it impossible to just coolly negotiate deals. All the skirmishes over the past few years about imprisoned journalists, diatribes and election campaign appearances, but above all the millions of people who both countries have in their biographies: All of this actually makes a special German commitment necessary, even if everything seems to be the same at first glance seems to remain.
On its front page, The Economist linked Türkiye’s election outcome with the “future of democracy” and speculated: “If Türkiye gets rid of its ruler, that should encourage democrats everywhere.” So now that Erdogan has won, should democrats be discouraged? Studies show that in the past, autocratic rulers have almost always been overthrown by a military coup or, in rarer cases, by sustained mass protests. It is extremely rare that they give up by election.
Of course it could have been different in Türkiye. The 48 percent of the opposition is a success and can be a motivation for the coming elections. Important local elections are coming up next year. And perhaps that’s the most optimistic lesson from Türkiye’s elections: it’s about more than voting, it’s about perseverance. An autocrat who constantly has to fight against democratic resistance is at least slowed down.
All publishing rights and copyrights reserved to MENA Research and Study Center.