A few hours after the official Turkish election commission announced that Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been reelected as president of Türkiye with over 52% of the vote, President Joe Biden congratulated him and said, “I look forward to continuing to work together as NATO allies on bilateral issues and shared global challenges.”
Türkiye’s economy is among the 20 largest in the world. It has cultural, historical and political ties to Central Asian countries like Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, whose resources and economies are attracting serious bourgeois attention. But the most important factor in Biden’s relationship with Erdogan — or whoever would have been elected Turkish president — is Türkiye’s control of the Bosporus Strait, an internationally significant waterway.
While Erdogan did condemn Russia for “invading Ukraine,” Türkiye’s trade with Russia increased, and he refused to apply the sanctions on Russia that the U.S. has imposed. He actively worked for the deal which lets Ukraine and Russia export some of their grain harvest and Russia export some of the fertilizer it produces, which is a significant portion of the fertilizers that help produce the food that feeds the world’s poorest people.
Erdogan used his position as incumbent to control what the media presented. He got a great deal of coverage, while his opponent Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu got much less. According to Reporters Without Borders, Erdogan got 32 hours on a state TV channel, while Kılıçdaroğlu got 32 minutes. (rsf.org)
One of the main issues of the campaign was inflation, which sharply reduced the living standards of Turkish workers. However, Erdogan boasted about how much the Turkish economy had grown. The week before the first round of the election, Erdogan increased the wages of 700,000 public employees by 45%.
Devastating impact of February earthquake
A powerful earthquake struck southern Türkiye Feb. 6; collapsing buildings caused 59,259 deaths and left 121,704 injured. Many progressives blamed lax enforcement of building codes and the amnesties Erdogan had proclaimed for code violations for construction firms as the real reason these casualties were so high. But Erdogan’s supporters proclaimed that it would take a tough, pious leader like him to overcome the devastation from the earthquakes.
Erdogan has a long history of repressing the Kurdish people and imprisoning their leaders, as have past leaders of the country. And he has prevented or tightly controlled and arrested political protesters, including on International Women’s Day, Publicly, he denounced LGBTQ rights during his election campaign.
Erdogan managed to scrape by against an opponent who was, if anything, more pro-imperialist than him. Leftist and Kurdish parties were not represented in the runoff at all and were repressed during the election. Neither candidate offered any meaningful change for the Kurdish population, a nationally oppressed minority, and there are reports that it was more difficult to vote in Kurdish areas.
It is clear that the struggle in Türkiye isn’t over.