Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey for 20 years, won another election and the right to rule for another five years in a country that has become richer and more powerful under him, but less secular and free.
In the second round on Sunday, Erdoğan won 2 million more votes than the combined opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
There were no serious complaints about the organization of voting and counting, but the opposition does not consider the election free because in Turkey, the election commission and the courts are effectively subordinate to the president, freedom of speech is suppressed, and prominent opponents to the government are in prison or under arrest.
In the first round two weeks ago, Erdogan was half a percent short of victory, but in the second round he won more than 52 percent of the vote.
The opposition had hoped that the crackdown on freedoms and failures in governance, exposed by the recent devastating earthquake and the years-long economic crisis, would force voters to abandon the traditional candidate in favor of change.
In a divided country, however, it was not urban dwellers who missed a democratic, secular and European-oriented Turkey, but the hinterland, where Erdoğan’s key electorate is concentrated, sharing his conservative policies aimed at Islamizing public life, strengthening authoritarianism, military power and global influence.
The opposition contrasted the powerful and willful Erdoğan with the soft and down-to-earth 74-year-old Kılıçdaroğlu.
His chances were initially slim, but the main opposition candidate, 54-year-old Mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu, could not take part in the elections. He was given a real sentence for criticizing the electoral commission, and an appeal against the sentence was promised to be considered after the presidential election. Even if Imamoglu had won, he risked going to jail.
Kılıçdaroğlu, despite occasional calls for him to step down as party leader, promised to continue his fight for democracy in Turkey. He called the elections “the most unfair in recent years”.