Turkish elections 2023: A glimpse of 20 years of Erdogan’s leadership

AA Recep Tayyip Erdogan / Photo: AA
AA Recep Tayyip Erdogan / Photo: AA

Türkiye is barreling towards twin elections on May 14 that could carry enormous implications for its future.

For the last twenty years, the political aspirations of the country have been represented by the Justice and Development (AK) Party led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been presiding over the country since 2002.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan was named Türkiye’s first executive president in 2018, following a crucial constitutional amendment.

Türkiye has had a parliamentary system since the inception of multiparty elections in 1946, and for the last two decades, since 2002, it has been governed by single-party governments. The AK Party, led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has emerged victorious in all elections.

Over these years, Türkiye has made an impressive stride through its innovative approach to both internal and external affairs. It has evolved into a transformative force that has instilled hope in much of the world, especially the countries that have always been at the receiving end of the global powers.

AAPresident Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s diplomatic efforts in Ukraine /Photo: AA

Displaying an impeccable diplomatic finesse, the Turkish government has played a major role in mediating confidence building measures and peace deals in vicious conflict zones such as Ukraine and Libya.

Currently, Türkiye is the 19th largest economy globally with a GDP of roughly $906 billion. It is a member of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the G20, and an increasingly important donor of Official Development Assistance.

Between 2006 and 2017, under Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership, the country implemented ambitious reforms and achieved high growth rates, which helped it attain upper-middle-income status, and reduced poverty by nearly half to 9.8 percent below the $6.85 per day poverty in line by 2020.

Türkiye boasts the world’s fifth-largest diplomatic network, comprising 260 diplomatic and consular missions.

The 2017 shift to a presidential system in Türkiye caused a reorganisation of the country’s political landscape, resulting in the formation of two significant political alliances. One of them, called the People’s Alliance, is spearheaded by the AK Party and consists of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Grand Union Party (BBP), New Welfare Party (Yeniden Refah).

AAThe change into the presidential system in 2017 led to the formation of pre-election alliances, which shapes the political landscape of Türkiye /Photo: AA

The other alliance, known as the Nation Alliance, is led by the primary opposition party, the centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP). It also includes the IYI Party, a centre-right and nationalist group, as well as the Saadet and Demokrat parties, which cater to a smaller voting base.

Now the alliances are gearing up to contest the critical Turkish elections 2023. Recep Tayyip Erdogan will seek a second term as the candidate of the ruling People’s Alliance. His main opponent will be Kemal Kilicdaroglu whose party Republican People’s Party (CHP) is part of the National Alliance for Turkish elections 2023.

Followed by Sinan Ogan, an academic with Azerbaijani Turkish roots, also running as ATA Alliance’s presidential candidate in the upcoming May election, and Memleket party’s head Muharrem Ince as fourth candidate for Turkish elections 2023.

As the AK Party has been in power for two decades and has propelled Türkiye to a significant position on the global stage through its achievements in various areas, Turkish elections 2023 are crucial for the party to continue pursuing its vision.

Here is a quick look at Türkiye’s impressive feats over the past two decades along with the fresh commitments declared for the impending elections.

Cutting-edge technologies in defence industry

As Erdogan held the reins of the country in 2003 as prime minister, he quickly began to reorganise the economy, labour market, manufacturing industry, with a strong focus on defence, and other key areas that eventually proved helpful to boost Türkiye’s national growth.

Ever since, Türkiye has established a robust manufacturing policy and reduced its import dependence, making a pivot toward homegrown production, especially in the field of defence and auto mechanics.

AATürkiye-manufactured Drones  aim to decrease the country’s dependence on abroad, especially in the areas of defence, industry and technology / Photo: AA

In two decades, Türkiye’s defence sector reduced its foreign dependency from 80 percent to 20 percent.

With more stakeholders joining the effort, the industry has become more diverse, boasting over 1,500 local defence firms– compared to mere 62 in 2002 – and undertaking 750 projects.

Furthermore, Türkiye’s total budget for defence projects was $5.5 billion in 2002, now it has reached a $75-billion project volume, including the ones in the bidding process mentioned by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a recent statement.

In 2022, Türkiye reached a record defence export volume of over $3 billion and might come close to $4 billion by the end of the year, making the country’s export volume comparable to some European nations’ overall defence budgets.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said in October that Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have become a “game changer” in modern wars.

AATurkish unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), landed safely, is the result of the long-lasting efforts of Turkish defence industry and is another step toward the strengthening of Turkish-branded defence industry / Photo: AA

One of Türkiye’s leading private defence companies Baykar recently introduced its unmanned fighter jet, Bayraktar Kizilelma, or Red Apple, earning praise and admiration from around the world.

Having completed its maiden flight in December last year, Kizilelma represents a significant expansion of capabilities for slow-moving reconnaissance and missile-carrying drones.

The uncrewed fighter jet is projected to conduct a multitude of military actions, such as strategic offensives, close air support, missile offensives, suppression of enemy air defences and destruction of enemy air defences.

The Altay main battle tank is another development, which is the country’s military vehicles designed for modernising and strengthening its armed forces.

AAAltay battle tank was another project initiated during the tenure of the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  in order to  improve the military industry and armed forces of Türkiye / Photo: AA

The tank features a 120mm Rheinmetall main gun, a .50 caliber heavy machine gun, and a 7.62mm medium machine gun.

It is designed to provide additional protection for tanks and other armoured vehicles against a variety of threats, such as anti-tank guided missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and other types of shaped-charge warheads.

Complementing these achievements in Türkiye’s defence industry, is the TCG-Anadolu, the world’s first unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) carrier, the biggest weapon Türkiye has ever produced.

TCG-Anadolu is unique in many aspects and will be a force multiplier for the Turkish army, and it will be able to carry out operations with other national military vehicles such as Bayraktar TB-3, Akinci and Kizilelma drones as well as Hurjet light combat aircraft.

Türkiye’s 60-year dream

Togg is the country’s first electric car brand, and a symbol of the country’s high-tech advancement.

Türkiye’s Automobile Joint Venture Group, or TOGG, introduced the country’s first electric vehicle prototype in December 2019. It aims to produce one million vehicles in five different models by 2030.

AAThe launch of Environment-friendly electric car, TOGG, has been  the very expected one in the history of Türkiye, signalling the country’s high-tech advancement. / Photo: AA

TOGG became the first Turkish brand to receive an iF Design Award in 2021, one of the most prestigious design awards in the world, with its C-SUV model.

Global companies have a great interest in Türkiye in terms of electric vehicle investments, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during the opening ceremony of TOGG, adding that with the support of the Industry and Technology Ministry, the country has been implementing a project that will install over 1,500 fast charging units in all 81 provinces of the country.

Big Black Sea gas discovery

Türkiye has pumped its first domestically produced Black Sea natural gas into its national system, which will increase its energy independence.

Ahead of the 4th May elections, during a commissioning ceremony in the town of Zonguldak President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that households will receive free gas consumption for a month to celebrate the occasion, saving each household around 625 lira ($32.2).

AAIt is expected that domestically-produced natural gas, and gas discovery in Black Sea will decrease the energy dependence of Türkiye and ensure the right of Türkiye in its territorial waters / Photo: AA

In the last two decades, Türkiye has also experienced significant developments in the energy sector.

Turkish Petroleum (TPAO), the state oil and gas company, has announced the completion of the pipeline carrying natural gas from the Black Sea to the shore.

Further 58 billion cubic metres of gas were found in December 2022 in the Caycuma-1 well in the southwestern part of the Black Sea.

Türkiye will meet approximately 30 percent of its annual natural gas needs from Black Sea reserves when full capacity is achieved in operation, and it will significantly reduce the country’s dependence on foreign natural gas.

Nearly 25 cubic metres of gas per month will be deducted from household gas bills for one year and natural gas consumption at residential places will be free of charge for one month in a bid to protect citizens against rising energy costs.

An independent evaluation found that the country’s total gas reserves would reach 710 billion cubic metres as at the end of 2022, with a market value in the region of $1 trillion.

Relief for millions

Another important initiative of the Erdogan-led government in the past two decades is the elimination of the retirement age.

The new arrangement benefits those who started working before September 1999, when the law regulating retirement requirements changed, and who have completed 20-25 years of social security-registered careers.

According to the new law, the minimum age requirement for retirement — age 58 for women and age 60 for men — is eliminated, allowing more than 2 millions workers to retire immediately.

Main rivals and manifestos

As President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party highlight their substantial achievements over the past 20 years, the opposition parties are also promoting their promises– such as enabling visa free travel for Turkish citizens to European countries– to attract the support and interest of the Turkish people.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the Justice and Development Party’s manifesto ahead of the 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections.

The 23-point manifesto focuses on healing the wounds of February earthquakes, rebuilding the cities across 11 provinces, and creating 6 million new jobs in five years to reduce the unemployment rate to 7 percent.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan also promised to speed up investment and promotion in tourism with a goal of 90 million tourists and $100 billion in tourism revenue. The manifesto also includes areas of the economy and environment.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to increase Türkiye’s power in the areas of energy, agriculture, education, and transportation, and build “the axis of Türkiye” with a foreign policy of peace and stability.

AAThe manifesto of the AK Party focuses on investment and promotions in many areas, from February earthquake to tourism, economy, education, transportation, energy and agriculture, as revealed for Turkish elections 2023 / Photo: AA

How elections in Türkiye work

On May 14, Turkish voters will head to the polls to elect their next president and members of parliament. Many view this election as one of the most significant in recent history.

The Turkish president is elected using a two-round voting system, where a candidate must secure an absolute majority or more than 50 percent of the nationwide vote.

Presidential elections

Four individuals have garnered the necessary 100,000 signatures to qualify as presidential candidates for Turkish elections 2023.

If no candidate secures a majority in the first ballot, the second round of voting will take place on May 28th for Turkish elections 2023. The national results are announced by the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) after counting all the votes.

AATurkish elections 2023 will take place on 14th of May in Türkiye while the Turkish diaspora will vote between the 27th of April and 9th of May / Photo: AA

The largest Turkish diaspora community resides in Western Europe, where Turkish workers settled in the 1960s under a post-World War II reconstruction program. They represent the largest Muslim immigrant group in Western Europe.

The diaspora voting period will take place from April 27th to May 9th, while the elections in Türkiye will be held on May 14th.



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