ISTANBUL – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday faces the biggest ballot box challenge of his 15 year grip on Turkey, with the opposition revitalized and his popularity at risk from growing economic troubles. Erdogan has overseen historic change in Turkey since his Islamic-rooted ruling party first came to power in 2002 after years of secular domination. But critics accuse the Turkish strongman, 64, of trampling on civil liberties and displaying autocratic behavior. Over 56 million Turkish voters will for the first time in history be voting simultaneously in parliamentary and presidential elections, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). But both these goals are in doubt in the face of an energetic campaign by his rival from the secular Republican People's Party (CHP), Muharrem Ince, who has mobilized hundreds of thousands in mega rallies, and a strong opposition alliance in the legislative polls.
In that regard, Mr. Erdogan fits perfectly with the deepening global trend toward autocrats and swaggering strongmen (they are all men) who have found a way to speak forcefully for common people who feel their point of view has been ignored for too long. Mr. Erdogan's speeches are often broadcast live on multiple television channels, almost universally pro-government, from every event he attends. His voice is heard everywhere, in cafes, homes and government offices across the land. His favorite recipe: attacking people his supporters love to hate, be it the United States, European leaders or the liberal elite. "He is one of us," supporters often explain.
ANKARA – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory in Sunday's presidential election and said his ruling AK Party and its alliance partner had won a parliamentary majority. However, the main opposition party said it was too early to concede defeat and said it believed Erdogan could still fall short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff on July 8. "Our people have given us the job of carrying out the presidential and executive posts," he said in a short speech from Istanbul. "I hope nobody will try to cast a shadow on the results and harm democracy in order to hide their own failure." Sunday's vote ushers in a powerful new executive presidency long sought by Erdogan and backed by a small majority of Turks in a 2017 referendum. Critics say it will further erode democracy in the NATO member state and entrench one-man rule.