On Saturday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey took the oath of office for his third term as president, following a historic runoff election extending his rule for two decades. In a grand ceremony at the presidential palace in Ankara, attended by numerous world leaders, Erdogan emphasized the need for unity and urged the country to move past the anger and division of the campaign period.
Despite facing challenges such as an economic crisis and public discontent over handling a February earthquake that claimed over 50,000 lives, Erdogan emerged victorious in the May 28 runoff. Official results indicate that Erdogan secured 52.18 percent of the vote, while his secular opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu garnered 47.82 percent.
“As president, I swear upon my honor and integrity, before the great Turkish nation… to work with all my power to protect the existence and independence of the state… and to fulfill my duty impartially,” Erdogan said in parliament after a ceremony outside the building where he saluted soldiers under pouring rain.
Upon Erdogan’s swearing-in, his supporters in parliament offered a standing ovation that lasted for a minute while confident opposition lawmakers chose not to stand.
During his oath, Erdogan committed to upholding the rule of law and the secular values established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk a century ago, ensuring that he would not deviate from them.
As Turkey’s longest-serving leader, Erdogan has faced various trials, including mass protests, a corruption scandal, and a failed coup attempt. As he embarks on his third term, he confronts significant immediate challenges, including an economic slowdown and strained relations with Western countries.
“From a geopolitical point of view, the election will reinforce Turkey’s recent pursuit of an independent foreign policy,” said Matt Gertken, chief geopolitical strategist at BCA Research.
“This policy aims to extract maximum economic and strategic benefits from eastern and autocratic states while still preventing a permanent rupture in relations with western democracies,” he said.
“Tensions with the West will likely increase again,” Gertken added.
– ‘Let’s make peace’-
Erdogan, standing next to his wife Emine, promised to embrace all segments of society during the ceremony at his palace after visiting Ataturk’s mausoleum.
“We will embrace all 85 million people, regardless of their political views, origins, creeds or sects,” he said, hoping that his appeal would be reciprocated also by his opponents.
“Turkey needs unity and solidarity more than ever,” he said.
The polarisation in society has deepened under the rule of Erdogan — called “Reis” by his supporters (“the chief”).
“We want all opposition segments, including journalists, writers, civil society, artists and politicians, to reconcile with the national will,” he said.
“If there is resentment, if hearts are broken, let’s find a way to make peace.”