Is Erdogan’s Victory in Elections a Hope for the Global South?

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, has been re-elected, marking the termination of the trickiest challenge to his increasingly presidential reign over the past two decades. Per the reports of Anadolu Agency and official data from Turkey’s Supreme Election Council, he won the May 28 second-round election after failing to win the May 14 first-round by a majority of the vote. In the runoff election, Erdogan garnered 52.14 percent of the vote and defeated his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who obtained 47.86 percent. However, many countries and their leaders throughout the world sent their best wishes after the final result came out. Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, attributed Erdogan’s success to his efforts to help Turkey maintain its “sovereignty and pursue an independent foreign policy.” In addition, during a rally, U.S. President Joe Biden also extended his congratulations to Erdogan and praised the democratic participation of the Turkish people which proved that democracy is still alive.

Moreover, Chinese President Xi Jinping also greeted him and showed his immense willingness to work with Erdogan to advance the long-term, healthy, and steady advancement of bilateral relationships. However, in this recent election, an unprecedented number of eligible voters cast ballots in what can only be described as a success for democracy and a vestige of democratic participation. These results demonstrate the strength of Turkish democracy and the vitality of the Turkish political scene. The fact that Turkish voters gave Erdogan another five years in office is a very good sign for peace and security in the region and the world since his leadership role has been very remarkable for the last few years. This is not just because he has tried to acquire a sweeping attention through the role of mediator in solving the Russia-Ukraine war, but he has also always been vocal about the issues that affected the world particularly, global south.

The Significance of Erdogan’s Willingness to Play the Mediator Role in the Ukraine War

Since the Russia-Ukraine war commenced in February 2022, Turkey, refusing to join the West in sanctioning Russia while keeping open lines of communication with both Moscow and Kyiv, has maintained a neutral stance and did not overtly and widely tilt to any side. Turkey has successfully placed itself at the centre of the crisis, exhibiting its willingness to play the role of mediator not just between Russia and Ukraine, but also between the West and Russia by unfurling a way to take a more measured and moderate approach to the war. However, to fully grasp the war’s trajectory and its correlation with Ankara, one must first comprehend Turkey’s position in the conflict. Turkey’s geographical locus is the most influential factor in this respect, followed by its long and complex relationship with the West and its more recent, transactional ties to Russia.

In this regard, the Individual level–the role of Erdogan–is also bringing diverse dynamics in the country’s foreign policy and alliances and its positive impacts on the developing and southern countries. Erdogan many times uttered his willingness to play a mediator role in bringing about a substantial shift in the war. However, at the 2022 Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, world leaders praised Turkey for its efforts in easing hostilities between Russia and Ukraine. In January 2023, during a phone-call with his Russian counterpart, President Erdogan reaffirmed Turkey’s eagerness to facilitate and mediate between Russia and Ukraine in order to build a sustainable peace. Despite having its geopolitical interest, this initiative has given rise to a ray of hope to end the war and henceforward, to bring a halt to all the politico-economic crises that the whole world is undergoing due to the war. From that viewpoint, the mediator role of Erdogan, that is yet to bring about a substantial outcome, is highly significant for the whole world particularly, southern developing countries that are experiencing the vile realities of the war.

“The World is Bigger Than Five”

Under the new Erdogan administration, a resolute commitment to promoting equity and impartiality worldwide remains steadfast. Additionally, the administration seems to be continuing to champion the need for improvements in international organisations. As Erdogan’s well-known maxim “the world is bigger than five” suggests, the new administration under his leadership is committed to advancing the voices of those countries that have been marginalized and promoting a more equitable distribution of power within global governing institutions. In this respect, Erdogan, during his UNGA address in 2022, condemned the United Nations Security Council and solicited the General Assembly to enact stronger measures to address a growing number of interconnected worldwide crises. This is a clear indication of the administration’s determination to achieve greater equality regarding the participation of the small powers particularly, Southern countries.

In addition, during his tri-nation Africa tour in 2021, Erdogan uttered that Western countries had long exploited Africa for their own ends. He also underlined his desire for a more equitable world by encouraging the oppressed–the Africans and others–to work together. Therefore, it can be argued that his ambitious vision transcends the boundaries of Turkey and encompasses the noble objectives of resolving global conflicts and mitigating the plight of humanity. With Erdogan at the helm, Turkey appears committed to forging partnerships with other nations that share its vision of tackling the most pressing issues facing the world today, both on a bilateral and global scale.

Moreover, this administration is looking committed to tackling various global issues, including climate change, food scarcity, irregular migration, and economic downturns. His leadership has positioned Turkey to play an active role in global affairs–such as the Ukraine war, Palestine crisis, Black Sea Grain deal, Syrian issue, Rohingya crisis and many more–by promoting collaboration and offering a mediation role. However, the recent election results in Turkey demonstrating the continued support for Erdogan signifies the nation’s willingness to engage in diplomatic relations with other countries based on shared values and interests in which the global south holds a core place.

Erdogan’s Re-ascendancy and Its Significance for Global South

Although geographically Erdogan belongs to a country that has long been dominated by Western thoughts in political, cultural and economic arenas, Erdogan as a leader appears as a hope for the Southern countries. He is currently grappling with significant domestic obstacles such as mounting political resistance, an influx of refugees, a sharp decline in the value of the national currency, and a declining economy. Despite these challenges, Erdogan appears to be prioritizing foreign policy from the perspective of national interest. Moreover, Erdogan’s leadership has demonstrated exceptional competency in leveraging the current geopolitical climate to his benefit, a feat that few leaders have been able to achieve. In light of the West’s efforts to counteract the decline of the international order based on liberal values, this individual’s approach could serve as a valuable model to emulate and a temporary solution to consider.

However, in spite of confronting huge media attacks and biased propagation from the global media before the recent elections, Erdogan did not give up and proved that even after all the backlashes, he has the capacity to be re-elected as president through the support of the people. This side of Erdogan’s prowess can be a good instance of good leadership for the Southern countries. In addition, his involvement in the Black Sea grain initiative has been instrumental in promoting global stability, and security since according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the ongoing war has the potential to cause acute food insecurity for up to 47 million people. Erdogan through his victory has defeated rising xenophobic, anti-refugee and isolationist forces in his country, which provides a critical lesson for politics in the Global South.

– Kawsar Uddin Mahmud is a Research Intern at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

Published in The Geopolitics [Link]