by Burak Akinci
(Xinhua) — Incumbent Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has secured his third term on the post after winning a runoff presidential election held Sunday. Experts believe that the veteran politician is likely to maintain a balance between the West and the East to keep positioning Türkiye as a regional heavyweight.
In Sunday’s contest, Erdogan won 52.14 percent of the votes. His opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu garnered 47.86 percent, Turkish Supreme Election Council Chairman Ahmet Yener said. The victory allows Erdogan to remain in power for another five years.
For long, to enhance Türkiye’s strategic importance, the Turkish leader has attached importance to the country’s NATO membership on the international stage on the one hand, and engaged in a delicate balancing act between the West and the East on the other.
When he announced his election manifesto in Ankara in April, Erdogan hinted that his country will continue to play an active role in regional affairs.
“We will build the axis of Türkiye with a foreign policy where both our country, our region, and humanity will find peace and stability, multilateralism, more cooperation, peace, stability, and humanitarian diplomacy,” he said.
Batu Coskun, an Ankara-based independent political risk analyst, said Erdogan is unlikely to change course, adding that a major task for the country would be to reconcile with former foes.
“Foreign policy-wise, I don’t expect a vast shift from the previous foreign policy before the electoral cycle began,” he told Xinhua in a recent interview. A priority for Turkish diplomacy is to push for a reconciliation with Syria, he said.
Signs of thawing the frozen Türkiye-Syria relations have been seen last year at meetings between Turkish, Syrian, and Russian ministers and officials in Moscow.
In the past few years, Türkiye has mended ties with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates following difficult regional isolation. Egypt is next in line in Türkiye’s drive, Coskun said.
“In a multipolar world, Türkiye strives for autonomy from the Western bloc, pursuing an independent foreign policy,” a source close to the Turkish government told Xinhua on the condition of anonymity.
“Türkiye will continue to have proactive diplomacy,” the source said.
On Russia, analysts believe Ankara would continue to maintain close political and financial relations with Moscow, despite criticism from its Western allies.
“Türkiye’s position on Russia is unlikely to change. Türkiye will continue to engage with Moscow and (President Vladimir) Putin both financially, politically and strategically,” Coskun said.
The balance has earned Türkiye a reputation during the Ukraine crisis. Ankara has not joined the Western sanctions campaign against Russia, but has served as a mediator between the parties, facilitating prisoner exchanges, the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and peace talks at the onset of the conflict.
Kerim Has, a Moscow-based analyst on Russian and Eurasian affairs, similarly said “Türkiye under Erdogan’s administration will deepen and expand its relations with Russia in the commercial, economic, financial, and energy fields.”
On relations with the United States, Erdogan in a media interview expressed his desire to cooperate with U.S. President Joe Biden and his administration.
Ankara’s ties with Washington have become strained due to their policy differences on Syria, Libya, or the Eastern Mediterranean. Türkiye has also been sanctioned by the United States for purchasing Russian defense systems and dismissed from the F-35 stealth jet program.
In Coskun’s view, there is little room for improvement in Turkish-U.S. relations. “I do not necessarily expect new frictions (with the United States) but I don’t expect engagement or a detente either. The Biden administration appears to be quite distant from Türkiye.”