Turkey’s incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won an unprecedented third term in office on Sunday, according to results released by the country’s Supreme Election Council (YSK). First elected as President in 2014, after serving as the country’s Prime Minister from 2003 to 2014, Erdogan will remain in office until 2028 following Sunday’s runoff election in which he garnered 51.92% of votes with 99.99% of ballots counted. His opponent, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, conceded defeat, but called it “the most unfair election in years.”
In his victory speech in Istanbul, Erdogan declared, “the only winner today is Turkey. I thank every single one of our people who once again gave us the responsibility to govern the country five more years.” He said that Turkey will continue to defend traditional family values and rejected the LGBTQ+ agenda of his opponents.
Erdogan is Turkey’s longest-serving leader since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded modern Turkey on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire a century ago. His Islamist AK Party, appealed to voters with nationalist and conservative convictions.
Erdogan reaffirmed Turkey’s commitment to an independent foreign policy. “We are not at a point where we would impose sanctions on Russia like the West has done. We are not bound by the West’s sanctions,” he told a CNN reporter. “We are a strong state and we have a positive relationship with Russia. Russia and Turkey need each other in every field possible.”
Leaders from around the world congratulated Erdogan. Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote, “Your victory is clear evidence of support of Turkish people for your independent foreign policy. We highly appreciate your personal contribution to the strengthening of friendly Russian-Turkish relations.” Milorad Dodik, President of Republika Srpska, was among the first to congratulate the Turkish president, tweeting, “Historical victory of @RTErdogan in the country’s first-ever presidential run-off! Voters again elected you as their leader! This decision of the voters is not important for the Republic of Turkiye only, but for the world! Congratulations!”
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán tweeted “Congratulations to President @RTErdogan on his unquestionable election victory! Tebrikler, Sayın Cumhurbaşkanı!” Despite the open support of Ambassador Jeff Flake fort he opposition candidate, U.S. President Joe Biden also congratulated Erdogan, “Congratulations to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Türkiye on his re-election. I look forward to continuing to work together as NATO Allies on bilateral issues and shared global challenges.”
Kilicdaroglu was widely seen as a pro-Western globalist candidate who wanted to strengthen Turkey’s ties to NATO and Europe. He had received tacit support from the U.S. Embassy, prompting Erdogan to refuse to receive Ambassador Jeff Flake, rebuking him for trying to interfere in the internal affairs of the country.