President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday once again showed to the naysayers that it’s never a good idea to jump the gun, especially when it comes to peoples’ democratic right of choosing a leader.
The national election in Türkiye has put Erdogan in the lead against Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the candidate of CHP-led opposition bloc of six parties.
The presidential election has gone to a second round as Erdogan received 49.51 percent of vote share, just shy of the 50 percent threshold required to win outright.
In the parliament as well, Erdogan’s AK Party along with its allies, the MHP and Yeniden Refah, have won a majority of the seats.
Erdogan and the AK Party have won more than a dozen elections since they first took the helm in Ankara in 2002.
But anyone who had come across a headline like this one - ‘Yes, Erdogan’s rule might actually end this weekend’ - from a story published in the Foreign Policy would have walked away with an impression that the opposition's victory was inevitable.
“Many Western news outlets deliberately wanted to portray the opposition as the future winner because they are obsessed with Türkiye’s charismatic, successful, and much cherished President,” says Klaus Jurgens, an Istanbul-based political analyst.
“These are all the qualities their very own leaders do not have - anymore,” he tells TRT World.
The counting for both presidential and parliamentary votes has been completed, and Türkiye’s Supreme Election Council (YSK) has announced a run-off on May 28 for the presidential race between incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of opposition CHP.
In any case, the high turnout of 89 percent has reaffirmed Türkiye’s status as a robust electoral democracy. The elections went ahead smoothly without any violence reported anywhere in the country.
At least 64.1 million people voted. Ahead of the elections, many analysts and polls had predicted the end of Erdogan’s government was in sight.
Why did the Western media get it so wrong?
During the election campaign, Erdogan and the AK Party leaders made it a point to highlight their government’s achievements – from building world class public infrastructure to launching cutting-edge defence weapons – which can help ordinary Turks take pride in their country.
AK Party election camps were adorned with posters depicting projects inaugurated under Erdogan’s watch: the drone carrier TCG Anadolu, Turkish electric car Togg and a skyline of high-rises.
“Türkiye has become a strong, respected regional player and even a global actor, no more the kid being complimented as long as it does what the West says so. Western media get things wrong deliberately,” says Jurgens.
Erdogan, a practicing Muslim, characteristically ended his election campaign at Ayasofya Grand Mosque, with recitation of Quranic verses.
Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) was reverted back to being a mosque in 2020, 80 years after it was turned into a museum. The decision, based on the Turkish supreme court ruling, was criticised by many in the West.
“Erdogan is not necessarily submissive to the West,” says Yasser Louati, a French political analyst.
“The West loves puppet regimes. They love it when foreign leaders are submissive to their interests and copy their values.”
For instance, France was not happy when Türkiye lifted the ban on girls wearing headscarves in schools and universities in the 2000s, he says.
Under Erdogan, Ankara has not shied away from flexing its diplomatic and military muscle in the region. From Syria, Libya to the eastern Mediterranean, Türkiye has emerged as a major player, often rubbing Western capitals the wrong way.
Türkiye’s balanced approach to the Ukraine-Russia conflict has also irked Brussels, which wants Ankara to back its harsh economic sanctions against Moscow.
But Türkiye buys natural gas from Russia under a long-term contract and hosts millions of Russian tourists who visit its beaches in Antalya during the summers.
What is testament to Erdogan’s political acumen is the grain deal, which has allowed Ukraine to ship its agri produce to the world market. At the same time, Ankara has continued to back Kiev and recognised its right over Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.
Louati says he was surprised to see even a left-leaning newspaper like L’Humanite, make wrong comparisons of Erdogan’s win with a victory of so-called “Islamic fascism”.
“That is how far they were willing to push the rhetoric that Erdogan is everything that is wrong with Türkiye,” he tells TRT World.
Louati wondered why prime ministers of Israel and India were not put to the same scrutiny even as, unlike Erdogan, they have pushed an ethno-supremacist agenda.
“This sort of coverage makes Western media lose its credibility.”