The Turkish Opposition Interpreted Erdoğan’s Election Victory as a “Pyrrhic Victory”

Ümit Özdağ, pyrrhic victory
Ümit Özdağ
Photo: Onur (Wikimedia) ©️CC BY-SA 4.0

After the second round of elections held on May 28, 2023, on Sunday, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chairman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was re-elected as the President of Turkey. However, the leader of the Victory Party (Zafer Partisi), Ümit Özdağ, interpreted the election results as a “Pyrrhic victory.”

In Turkey, during the parliamentary and presidential elections held on May 14, 2023, no presidential candidate was able to secure the required majority. As a result, according to Turkish laws, the second round of elections for the presidency was held on May 28.

In the second round, the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (Republican People’s Party) competed, and Erdoğan was re-elected as the President with 52.18% of the votes. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, on the other hand, received 47.82% of the votes, thereby losing the election.

In his statements on Twitter, Ümit Özdağ, the leader of the Victory Party (Zafer Partisi) who supported Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in the second round of elections, mentioned that the party had done its part but emphasized that strategic mistakes cannot be corrected with tactical successes.

Özdağ stated that he received the first phone call from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) on May 18, and the first visit took place on May 19, followed by a second visit on May 22. Lastly, Özdağ mentioned that a protocol was signed between the CHP and the Victory Party on May 24, emphasizing that the Victory Party had only 3.5 days left. Özdağ stated that the mistakes made during this time could only be partially corrected, and he critically evaluated this situation.

Özdağ emphasized that the Victory Party would continue its struggle in the spirit of Turkish nationalism in line with Atatürk’s principles, without compromising. He stated that neither global powers nor Turkish politics could ignore the Victory Party anymore. Özdağ expressed that for the past 21 years, Turkey has been dragged from one defeat to another, and he invited the Turkish opposition to join the Victory Party for the triumph of the Turkish nation. Additionally, he mentioned that he would not congratulate Erdoğan’s unjust victory and interpreted it as a Pyrrhic victory.

Who is Ümit Özdağ?
Ümit Özdağ follows a political ideology based on Turkish nationalism and emphasizes adherence to the principles of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. Turkish nationalism is an ideology that emphasizes the independence, national unity, and solidarity of the state. Özdağ is known as a politician who upholds these values. He has played an active role in the political developments in Turkey and has become a significant figure among opposition parties. He is known for his political statements and criticisms, especially during election periods. Additionally, Özdağ has expertise in the Turkish Armed Forces and nationalism, and he has written various articles on these subjects.

Pyrrhic Victory

The term “Pyrrhic victory” originates from the Pyrrhic War, which took place in the 3rd century BCE between Pyrrhus of Epirus and the Roman Republic. Pyrrhus emerged triumphant in several battles against the Romans, but at an exorbitant price. The toll in terms of casualties and depletion of resources was staggering, prompting Pyrrhus to famously declare, “One more such victory and we shall be utterly ruined.” This statement encapsulates the essence of the Pyrrhic victory, where success is overshadowed by the heavy losses incurred.

A Pyrrhic victory possesses distinctive characteristics that differentiate it from a conventional triumph. Firstly, it exacts a high toll in terms of human lives, resources, and overall strategic advantage. The victorious side often suffers significant losses, diminishing their military strength and morale. Secondly, a Pyrrhic victory tends to yield limited long-term gains, as the costs outweigh the benefits. The victor’s ability to sustain subsequent battles and maintain control is compromised, rendering the victory hollow and pyrrhic in nature.

Throughout history, notable examples abound that exemplify the Pyrrhic victory, leaving an indelible mark on military strategists and historians alike. One such instance is the Battle of Asculum in 279 BCE, where Pyrrhus faced the Roman legions. Despite inflicting heavy casualties on the Romans, Pyrrhus paid a steep price, losing a significant portion of his own army, including experienced commanders. This Pyrrhic victory weakened his forces considerably, ultimately leading to his withdrawal from Italy.

Another notable illustration is the Battle of Cannae in 216 BCE during the Second Punic War. Carthaginian general Hannibal employed a masterful encirclement strategy, annihilating a superior Roman army. However, the immense casualties suffered by both sides severely depleted Hannibal’s forces, preventing him from capitalizing on the victory. Rome, despite the devastating loss, regrouped and ultimately emerged as the dominant power.

The implications of the Pyrrhic victory are profound for military leaders and strategists. It serves as a stark reminder of the importance of weighing the costs and benefits of military actions before engaging in conflict. Pursuing short-term gains at the expense of long-term sustainability can have dire consequences. The Pyrrhic victory underscores the need for meticulous planning, effective resource management, and a comprehensive understanding of the strategic landscape.

Furthermore, the Pyrrhic victory highlights the significance of evaluating the broader objectives of warfare. Tactical victories alone do not guarantee overall success. Considerations such as morale, public opinion, diplomatic standing, and the ability to maintain control over conquered territories are paramount. A prudent approach that balances short-term gains with long-term objectives is essential to avoid falling into the trap of a Pyrrhic victory.

Parliamentary Election Results

According to the official results announced by the Supreme Election Council of the Republic of Turkey on May 30, 2023, the parties that received more than 1% of the votes and their corresponding vote percentages are as follows:1

%Party / Ideology
35.62AKP (Justice & Development Party)
Social conservatism, Right-wing populism, Neo-Ottomanism
25.35CHP (Republican People’s Party)
Kemalism, Progressivism, Social democracy, Pro-Europeanism
10.07MHP (Nationalist Movement Party)
Cultural nationalism, Right-wing populism, Euroscepticism
9.69İYİP (GOOD Party)
Kemalism, Turkish nationalism, Social liberalism, Pro-Europeanism
8.82YSP (Green Left Party)
Left-libertarianism, Kurdish nationalism, Alter-globalization
2.80YRP (New Welfare Party)
Religious conservatism, Anti-Zionism, Hard Euroscepticism
2.23ZP (Victory Party)
Kemalism, Anti-immigration, Pan-Turkism, Economic nationalism
1.76TİP (Workers’ Party of Turkey)
Socialsim, Marxism–Leninism, Left-wing populism

  1. Yüksek Seçim Kurulu Kararı“, T.C. Resmî Gazete, Sayı: 32206, Karar No: 2023/1255, 30 Mayıs 2023[]