After ruling his country for 20 years, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is unlikely to change course now.
Cheered on by thousands of his supporters, the president marked the final day of the campaign by taunting his critics, his opponents and the West.
Erdogan knows that these elections, which pit him against a coalition of opposition parties, will be close. His tactic seems simple: to incite his own supporters to come out in large numbers.
So he told them that all that he had achieved was now in danger of being undone. He warned that the victory of the opposition led by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu will give the terrorists an opportunity.
And he accused America of orchestrating a shadow campaign to oust him.
“What are you going to do with the instruction you get from America?” he mockingly asked his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
“And what about the directive you got from Biden? Biden told you. “We must overthrow Erdogan.” I know this, all my people know this, but tomorrow the ballot boxes will also give an answer to Biden.”
His supporters shouted and cheered, chanting his name and responding enthusiastically as the president, somewhat half-witted, waved them off the stage.
This election is remarkably divisive and divisive. After more than 20 years of intrusive control over the country, nobody in Turkey is indifferent to Erdogan.
Many, including the thousands we have seen flocking to his rallies, adore him. They see the president as a strong, unapologetic defender of his country and its traditions.
Meet the man who wants to end the Erdogan era
Why Turkey’s elections may be the most important in the world this year
His opponents are equally convinced, portraying Erdogan as a malevolent presence who has eroded every facet of democracy and alienated his nation.
There is no middle ground anymore. That is why the country’s opposition parties, which are supposedly very different in their political philosophies, have united behind the desire to remove Erdogan from office.
But for his supporters, the best solution to all of this is clear: another victory for Erdogan.
We arrived at a shopping mall in a middle-class area of Istanbul full of shops aimed at conservative women. Modest fashion is the name being used, and it’s big business.
In the cafe, Many of the business owners gathered to meet Oezlem Zengin, the most prominent wife of the president’s AKP party. We chat over cups of tea that are almost as strong as Zengin’s determination.
“I have been working with our party for 21 years and I say that we will win the elections,” he says.
“Erdogan was misunderstood. He is not understood at all by the West. Look around you, what changes he brought. the women who are here today and how she helped them grow.
“But I think the West has prejudices about Turkey and the president. They don’t understand how he keeps winning because they don’t understand him.”
Turkey, he says, is “forging its own path” and “rethinking where we are, what we need to do and how we need to position ourselves.”
He highly appreciates the country’s approach to the Ukrainian war, saying that Erdogan was a bridge between Russia and Ukraine.
The truth is that in the hours before voting begins, no one can say for sure what will happen.
In this political abyss, both parties are confident not only of winning the election, but of doing so in the first round of voting.
But, of course, they don’t know. Erdogan is an excellent candidate for continuity. a man who built his party and transformed his nation over 20 years.
The opposition is the opposite: a coalition that can work, or it can fall apart, but which exists primarily to be a catalyst for change.
It’s an election, but it’s also a referendum on Erdogan, watched by a world desperate to know what happens next. We don’t know, but there is one safe prediction: whatever the outcome, it will be close.