[Solution] Erdogan wins, will Turkey be more "alienated and pro-Russian"?

author:Global Network

Source: Global Times-Global Network

Ahmed Jenel, chairman of Turkey's Supreme Election Commission, announced late at night in the capital Ankara that according to the preliminary vote count, the incumbent President Erdogan defeated his opponent in the second round of the presidential election held on the 28th and was re-elected president.

According to the Turkish Supreme Election Council, according to the results of the counting of 99.59% of the ballot boxes, Erdogan won 51.91% of the votes, and the candidate of the opposition camp "National Alliance" Klıchdar Oulu received 48.09% of the votes. Erdogan spoke that night to thank voters for their support, saying that he would not betray the trust of his supporters. He also pledged to work hard for Turkey's next centenary of statehood.

[Solution] Erdogan wins, will Turkey be more "alienated and pro-Russian"?

In two decades in power, what changes has Erdogan brought to Turkey? What does another victory for the Middle Eastern strongman mean for the geostrategic situation in Eurasia, which is undergoing great change? Will Turkey under Erdogan become more "alienated and pro-Russian" next? Where will China-Turkey relations go in the next five years?

What has changed in Turkey during the Erdogan era?

Erdogan has been prime minister for 11 years since 2003 and president of Turkey since 2014, and has been at the helm of Turkish politics for 20 years. A number of analysts told the Global Times that the past 20 years have been a period of major changes in Turkey's role both domestically and internationally, and the country's national development has been deeply branded with Erdogan personally, and can even be described as the "Erdogan era".

Erdogan's 20 years in power are often cited as 20 years of Turkey's leap in international standing. Zan Tao, director of the Turkish Research Center of Peking University, said in an interview with the Global Times on the 29th that politically, Erdogan's successive rule has freed Turkey from the frequent government changes at the turn of the century, bringing more stability, order and predictability to the country's politics. Along with this, with the growth of comprehensive national strength, Turkey has grown into a very important geopolitical power in the world, more deeply involved in many regions and sensitive issues, and effectively achieved strategic goals.

It is worth noting that after Erdogan's victory, the leaders of the United States, Russia and Ukraine, who have complicated geopolitical contradictions, congratulated him at the same time. U.S. President Joe Biden tweeted, "I look forward to [you] continuing to work together as a NATO ally on bilateral issues and common global challenges." Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Twitter, "We look forward to further strengthening the strategic partnership and strengthening cooperation for the benefit of the two countries, as well as for the security and stability of Europe."

Russian President Vladimir Putin also congratulated Erdogan on his victory in a statement, saying, "The victory in the election is a natural result of your selfless work as a Turkish leader, which clearly proves that the Turkish people support your efforts to strengthen national sovereignty and pursue an independent foreign policy." ”

At the level of Turkey's domestic politics, Tian Wenlin, a professor at the School of International Relations of Chinese Minmin University, told the Global Times reporter that during Erdogan's administration, Turkey's political centralization became stronger. Erdogan changed Turkey's political system from a parliamentary to a presidential system and continuously strengthened presidential powers. In the ideological field, Turkey has shown a clear shift from "secularization" to "Islamization". After Erdogan's victory, the trend of political centralization and ideological "Islamization" in the country may continue.

During Erdogan's administration, he also pushed hard for Turkey's economic reforms. In his first decade in office, Erdogan introduced economic reforms by establishing independent central banks, banks and financial regulators, privatizing the public sector, and achieving impressive economic results through infrastructure development and a booming tourism industry. It is for this reason that Erdogan won the 2014 Turkish presidential election easily. But in the second decade, the situation changed.

According to the World Bank, as of April this year, Turkey's economy slipped to 19th place, GDP per capita slipped to $10,661, and foreign debt exceeded half of GDP. According to official Turkish data, inflation in the country soared to more than 85 percent last year, reaching its highest level in 25 years.

After Erdogan first became prime minister in 2003, he led Turkey to tremendous economic growth, turning the country's cities upside down and lifting millions of Turks out of poverty. Internationally, he has been hailed as a new example of Islamists who are pro-business and want strong ties with the West. The New York Times commented on the 29th, but in the past decade, there has been continuous criticism of Erdogan in Turkey and abroad.

"Erdogan's economic policy is essentially a neoliberal policy that seeks to resolve Turkey's domestic problems through privatization. This policy did initially lead to rapid economic growth in Turkey, which was once at the forefront of emerging economies, known as the 'Tiger of Ankara'. However, in the later period, Turkey's economic growth slowed down significantly, and many problems such as high inflation, wealth differentiation and other problems emerged, and the monetary and financial crises were very obvious. Tian Wenlin told reporters.

He said that in the face of this situation, Erdogan did not give a good prescription during this term, but responded by promoting populism, shaping the discourse system of "we are against them" in Turkey. This rhetoric has had some effect in the past few years, but it does not hide the current difficulties of the Turkish economy. Whether Turkey's economic problems can be alleviated in the coming years will be a matter of great concern and the most important challenge facing Erdogan.

It is worth noting that this is the first time in the history of the Turkish presidential election that the second round of voting was held: on May 14, local time, Turkey held the first round of the presidential election, and none of the three presidential candidates received more than half of the votes. According to the Turkish constitution, the top two candidates with the most votes are required to compete in the second round. From 8 a.m. to 17 p.m. local time on May 28, Turkey held the second round of voting in the presidential election. As a result, the election is also considered one of the biggest challenges of Erdogan's administration.

Between the United States and Russia, where will Turkey go?

After Erdogan's victory, Turkey's foreign policy will be "changed" and "unchanged" has become the focus of attention from the outside world. In particular, the trend of the three sets of bilateral relations, US-Turkey relations, Russian-Turkish relations and China-Turkey relations, and whether Turkey will be more "pro-Russian and alienated from the United States", have aroused public concern.

Analysts generally believe that Erdogan also worked to improve Turkey's relations with the United States and Europe in the early days of his presidency, but over time, this effort has been repeatedly frustrated, not only Turkey's desire to join the European Union has been repeatedly rejected, but in 2016, there was an "attempted coup" in his country, which was believed by Erdogan to be behind the United States. Since then, Turkey has been seen as moving away from the West and has begun to move closer to Russia, marked by the purchase of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles that are incompatible with NATO systems.

Zan Tao told the Global Times that in essence, Erdogan adopts a balanced and diversified foreign policy, and this style of Turkish diplomacy will continue during his next term. He said that over the past few years, Turkey's relationship with the United States has been "both contradictory and mutually necessary" because of Erdogan's independent foreign policy.

"For example, in terms of sanctions against Russia, Erdogan did not follow the line of the United States; On the issue of NATO's eastward expansion, Turkey has been obstructing the admission of new members and other issues; In terms of military cooperation, Turkey wants the United States to sell them more advanced fighters, but the United States has been shirking on various grounds, and Erdogan, under pressure from the United States, has bought Russian anti-aircraft missile systems. But on the other hand, as a member of NATO, Turkey still needs NATO as a security mechanism in the future, and is expected to continue to cooperate with the United States on issues such as counterterrorism in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The Turkish expert believes that in the next five years, the contradictions in the above-mentioned Turkish-US relations will still be difficult to resolve, but due to the needs of national interests, Turkey will not appear to be more distant from the United States and the West on the surface.

In terms of Russian-Turkish relations, Zan Tao believes that in the context of the protracted conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Turkey under the leadership of Erdogan is expected to continue to take the position of "maintaining a high degree of vigilance against Russia and not participating in the Western camp of cracking down on sanctions against Russia", while continuing to actively participate in the mediation of the Ukrainian crisis, assistance to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, and the settlement of Black Sea grain shipments, etc., in order to further enhance its status as a regional power and its role in international geopolitics.

"I don't think Erdogan's Turkey is anti-American and pro-Russian, nor do I think it will go pro-American and anti-Russian. Erdogan's foreign policy seems to be maverick, but in fact it is based on Turkey's national interests, because Turkey's geographical location and role as a regional power dictate that it is best to engage in balanced diplomacy. He said that Turkey will continue to seek to play some intermediate role between East and West, between the United States and Russia, and it is precisely because of this position that its role as a mediator in the Ukraine crisis may be more accepted by many parties.

What does Erdogan's victory mean for China?

What does Erdogan's victory mean for Sino-Turkish relations? Zan Tao believes that in Erdogan's next term, Sino-Turkish relations are expected to remain stable. "Although China and Turkey are not each other's most important bilateral relations, as a country that plays an important role geopolitically, Turkey attaches great importance to China's rising international influence, especially China's dominance in multilateral mechanisms. This emphasis is even more pronounced in the context of major geopolitical changes in Eurasia. ”

On Xinjiang-related issues, he believes that in recent years, China has made great achievements in opposing the "three forces", and generally speaking, China and Turkey currently have "greater consensus than differences" on this issue, and control sensitive issues is relatively effective. Turkey has adopted a relatively pragmatic approach and has always avoided taking actions that are too radical and provocative for China.

Tian Wenlin told the Global Times reporter that Turkey's "turn east" is an instinctive reaction after its "looking west" strategy was setback, which made China-Turkey relations enter a relatively good period in the past few years, and political, economic and military cooperation were closer than before. This trend is expected to continue after Erdogan's victory.

"Europe is unlikely to really embrace Turkey, and the United States is not very approvingly of its domestic political centralization. This all determines that the 'turn east' will continue to be Turkey's policy choice. He said.

At the regular press conference of the Chinese Foreign Ministry held on the 29th, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said that China congratulates President Erdogan on his re-election as President of Turkey and supports Turkey in taking a development path that suits its national conditions. It is hoped that under the leadership of President Erdogan, Turkey will continue to make new achievements in its development and construction.

She said that China attaches great importance to China-Turkey relations, and in recent years, under the guidance of the two heads of state, the cooperation between the two countries in various fields has yielded fruitful results, benefiting the two peoples. China is willing to work with Turkey to push the China-Turkey strategic cooperative relationship to a new level.

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