ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has beaten back his rivals at one of his most vulnerable movements and regained his old aura of invincibility ahead of next Sunday's historic runoff election.
An unprecedented opposition coalition, galvanised by a biting economic crisis and fury over a calamitous February earthquake, represented his latest challenge in last Sunday's general election.
But while coming closer to defeat than ever, Erdogan beat the odds yet again, looking increasingly likely to extend his two-decade rule for one last time until 2028.
A transformative and divisive figure, Erdogan is revered for unshackling religious restrictions in the officially secular but mostly Muslim state, overseeing ambitious infrastructure projects and turning Türkiye into a geopolitical force.
Next Sunday's runoff is turning into a referendum on his rule, with its result likely to leave the sharply polarised nation of 85 million deeply divided.
Erdogan prides himself on being able to woo doubters through tireless campaigning.
This passion has helped him and his party win more than a dozen local and national elections, allowing Erdogan to claim a people's mandate for his foreign military adventures and domestic clampdowns on dissent.
Erdogan risked his political domination on a 2017 referendum over abolishing the office of prime minister and handing greater powers to the president.
Erdogan eked out a narrow win, enfeebling parliament and enabling him to effectively rule by decree. It also gave him the constitutional loophole needed to run for two more terms in office -- an outcome acquiring the air of inevitability.
Born in a working-class harbour district of Istanbul, Erdogan made his name in nascent Islamic movements that were challenging secular domination, becoming the city's mayor in 1994.
His term in office was cut short when he was convicted and jailed for four months for inciting religious hatred when he recited a fiery poem that compared mosques to army barracks and called minarets "our bayonets".
Founding the AKP, Erdogan spearheaded its 2002 landslide election victory and became premier less than six months later.
Erdogan's signature early achievements included a series of reforms that gladdened the European Union, including abolishing the death penalty and beginning a peace process with Kurdish militants. — AFP