Turkey’s Erdogan Wins Reelection After Dissidents Blocked on Twitter

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won re-election after a contested vote.
  • A day before the election, Twitter blocked posts by Erdogan critics from being viewed in the country.
  • Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule now extends into its third decade.

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won reelection Sunday after a runoff vote, extending his increasingly authoritarian rule into a third decade as the country reels from high inflation and the aftermath of an earthquake that leveled entire cities.

His victory comes days after posts by his critics were blocked from being seen on Twitter on the day of the first election, stifling whistleblowers who opposed the election and preventing his opposition from communicating with their audience in Turkey.

Dr. Tuğrulcan Elmas, a postdoctoral researcher focusing on social media manipulation at Indiana University Bloomington, previously told Insider he tracked roughly a half dozen accounts posting content related to the Turkish election that had been suspended before the election.

A third term gives Erdogan an even stronger hand domestically and internationally, and the election results will have implications far beyond Ankara. Turkey stands at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and plays a key role in NATO. 

With over 99% of the runoff ballot boxes opened, unofficial results showed Erdogan with 52% of the vote, compared with 48% for his challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. The head of Turkey’s electoral board confirmed the victory, saying that even after accounting for outstanding votes, the result was another term for Erdogan.

In his first comments since the polls closed, Erdogan thanked the nation for entrusting him with the presidency for five more years.

“We hope to be worthy of your trust, as we have been for 21 years,” he told supporters on a campaign bus outside his home in Istanbul. “The only winner today is Turkey.”

According to Elmas, Twitter accounts chosen for restriction before the election were some the Turkish government has traditionally targeted because they had ties to political opposition or whistleblowers who have been critical of the country’s right-wing leader.

Twitter’s decision to throttle access to accounts from Turkey came as CEO Elon Musk’s business ties to the country have solidified following increasing communication between Erdogan and Musk, Elmas noted, based on news coverage of their interactions.

Erdogan’s challenger campaigned on promises to reverse Erdogan’s democratic backsliding, restore the economy by reverting to more conventional policies, and improve ties with the West. Kilicdaroglu said the election was “the most unjust ever,” with all state resources mobilized for Erdogan.

“We will continue to be at the forefront of this struggle until real democracy comes to our country,” Kilicdaroglu said in Ankara. He thanked the more than 25 million people who voted for him and asked them to “remain upright.”

He added that the people have shown their will “to change an authoritarian government despite all the pressures.”

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