Turkey's Erdogan urges unity as he begins new presidential term

Turkey's Erdogan urges unity as he begins new presidential term By A Robin - June 04, 2023


President Tayyip Erdogan called on Turks to put aside their differences and focus on the future as he assumed office for a new five-year term on Saturday.

Erdogan was sworn in at a ceremony at the parliament in Ankara and is will later name a new cabinet whose make-up is expected to signal a possible change of direction in economic policy including an end to an era of low interest rates.

At an inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace, Erdogan struck a conciliatory tone.

"We will embrace all 85 million people regardless of their political views ... Let's put aside the resentment of the election period. Let's look for ways to reconcile," he said.

"Together, we must look ahead, focus on the future, and try to say new things. We should try to build the future by learning from the mistakes of the past."

The ceremony was attended by high-level officials from countries and international organisations including NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

Earlier, reading out the oath of office, Erdogan vowed to protect Turkey's independence and integrity, to abide by the constitution, and to follow the principles of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern secular republic.

Turkey's longest-serving leader, Erdogan won 52.2% support in a May 28 runoff vote. His election victory defied most opinion polls and came despite a cost-of-living crisis that was seen to have hurt his prospects.

His new mandate will allow Erdogan to pursue the increasingly authoritarian policies that have polarised the country, a NATO member, but strengthened its position as a regional military power.

Erdogan will name his cabinet later on Saturday, potentially paving the way for changes in his unorthodox approach to economic policy.

He is likely to include former economy chief Mehmet Simsek, Reuters reported earlier this week, which would indicate a potential return to greater economic orthodoxy, including eventual interest rate hikes.

Simsek was highly regarded by investors when he served as finance minister and deputy prime minister between 2009 and 2018. A key role for him now could mark a departure from years of sticking to low interest rates despite high inflation, and heavy state control of markets.

Erdogan, 69, became prime minister in 2003 after his AK Party won an election in late 2002 following Turkey's worst economic crisis since the 1970s.

In 2014, he became the country's first popularly elected president and was elected again in 2018 after securing new executive powers for the presidency in a 2017 referendum.

The May 14 presidential election and May 28 runoff were pivotal given that the opposition had been confident of ousting Erdogan and reversing many of his policies, including proposing sharp interest rate hikes to counter inflation, running at 44% in April.

In his post-election victory speech, Erdogan said inflation, which hit a 24-year peak of 85% last year before easing, was Turkey's most urgent issue.

Analysts have said that if current policies continue, the economy is heading for turmoil given depleted foreign reserves, an expanding state-backed protected deposits scheme, and unchecked inflation expectations.

The lira has undergone a series of crashes in recent years and hit new all-time lows in the days after the vote.

Reporting by Huseyin Hayatsever; Editing by Jonathan Spicer, Frances Kerry and Giles Elgood


By A Robin - June 04, 2023

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