Since 2002, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has determined the fate of Turkey, as leader of the largest party, prime minister and president, and since 2017 has been endowed with extensive powers. 21 years in power is a long time in democracies designed for leadership change. The Germans have therefore quarreled with Helmut Kohl and Angela Merkel after 16 years in power. In the United States and France, presidential terms are limited to eight and ten years. The 69-year-old Erdogan now wants to extend his time in government by another five to 26 years.

These are almost Putin's dimensions. They invite speculation: What does Erdogan want to secure with his hold on power? What hasn't he done yet? In general, would he leave if the voters chose the candidate of the united, albeit fragile, opposition?

As early as 2019, Erdogan had used his power to negate unwelcome local election results. The fact that he uses the judiciary for political purposes, persecuting opposition members and silencing critics has hardly done him any serious harm in the country, but outside it. He was able to win over his supporters with a policy that appeals to religious feelings and national pride.

The fact that Erdogan's time may nevertheless be up is due to the poor economic situation. Polls reflect dissatisfaction with the president, who is responding with good deeds: minimum wages, pensions and civil servants' salaries are rising, two million employees can retire earlier, prices are subsidized, private costs are limited. The consequences will have to be borne by the state budget in the future.

Not all the blame, but too much

It would be wrong to blame Erdogan for the acute misery alone. The economic consequences of the pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine have hit Turkey, although the emerging market has shown resilience. Industry, the engine of the (export) economy, is running, tourism has recovered.

Nevertheless, his policies have meant that the difficulties are greater than they need to be. He has made too little of the great potential of the country with its young population at the interface between Europe and Asia. His religiously disguised idea, which makes a mockery of economic theory, according to which high inflation is fought with low interest rates, stokes the fire of the devaluation of money, which still amounts to 43 percent. It makes life difficult for millions of families.

These are often those who experienced an economic rise in the first ten or fifteen years of Erdogan's rule. The poverty rate fell below 2020 percent by 10. But economic output per capita in 2022 was only at the level of 10 at 661,2010 dollars. Those who can, flee into tangible assets. Real estate prices have risen by a factor of 1.5 on average for the year. Gold imports – along with oil and gas – have torn such a big hole in the current account that the government is limiting gold imports.

Institutions in line

Only with ever new interventions in the capital market will it be possible to save the weakening lira from further crashing. That sounds better than it is. In the foreign exchange market, this makes it more difficult to automatically adjust to higher domestic prices by devaluing the currency. As a result, the Turkish economy appears more competitive than it is. It lives on credit, as record-high current account deficits show. Without donors from China, Russia and the Gulf, their solvency would probably be bad.

No one is falling into Erdogan's arms. The institutions that have been brought into line, from the central bank to the sovereign wealth fund, are singing his song and are only formally independent. Outwardly, this underlines Erdogan's power, but ultimately this is precisely where the fatal weakness of his presidential rule lies. International investors see this as a warning sign. They have been making themselves scarce for a long time and are waiting for developments. Whoever emerges victorious from these elections will hardly be able to avoid harsh adjustments to contain the inflation and currency crisis. At the same time, growth is already weakening.

Erdogan wants to continue his failed economic and financial policies. This is another reason why one should wish his challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu all the best. Erdogan has his undisputed merits for Turkey, even if most of them were many years ago. But now it's time for him to retire. Turkey needs a fresh start.