Bayraktar is now compared to the American Elon Musk, the richest man in the world
On May 14, 2023, Turkey will undoubtedly experience its most polarized presidential and legislative elections.
After 20 years in power, this is the first time that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, better known as the AKP) have possibly faced a serious challenge as Turkey grapples with years of economic mismanagement and the fallout from since February’s devastating earthquake.
His main rival and co-candidate of the six opposition parties, Kemal Kiliçdaroğlu, nicknamed “Turkish Gandhi”, would today be leading most opinion polls.
However, for some informed observers, what will happen to the Turkish state after the elections is more important than the results of the polls.
Erdogan can overcome the challenge of his 20-year rule, but a narrow victory or defeat could send his AKP on the hunt for a successor.
And that successor is widely believed to be Selçuk Bayraktar, co-owner of the Turkish defense company Baykar, producer of the TB2 Bayraktar drones.
After all, he just happens to be Erdogan’s son-in-law.
Bayraktar drones are world top
Baykar has now become Turkey’s best-known defense company.
It became the country’s largest arms exporter in 2021, with annual sales of $664 million, and the business has grown further due to the war in Ukraine.
Last year, Baykar reportedly delivered $1.20 billion worth of drones and other technology to 18 countries, including NATO nations.
In addition to drones, the company is developing an unmanned combat aircraft called “Kizilelma”.
The exceptional success rate of the TB2 Bayraktar drone has effectively strengthened Ukraine in its ongoing war against Russia.
This has made Baykar one of the most talked about drone manufacturers in the world.
It has a wingspan of only 12 meters (39 feet), a tail propeller and three wheels.
It is armed with up to four laser-guided bombs or missiles.
Although it cannot fly as fast or carry as heavy a load as its major competitors from the United States and Israel, it looks more attractive as it costs only US$5 million, about one-sixth the cost. of the American Reaper drone and one tenth the value of the Israeli Heron TP drone.
It should be noted that it is at the top of the purchase lists of small and medium military forces.
How Bayraktar drones crucially affect the political scene
As expected, the company’s close relationship with Erdogan has become a campaign issue in Turkey.
After all, Baykar is the flagship of Turkey’s defense industry, which has reportedly grown tenfold since Erdogan came to power in 2003.
Erdogan recently said during a speech to Turkish military recruits: “We are no longer beggars.
Everyone wants drones from us.” During the election campaign, he unveiled defense products, including a warship from which drones would be launched in the future.
Although Baykar’s increased global profile and the revenue it brings to the country makes opposition parties somewhat measured in their comments on the matter, the current election campaign has seen debate over whether the company should have autonomy or whether it should be subject to increased state control.
Kiliçdaroğlu said no state can rely solely on the private sector to run its defense industry.
He promised that under his rule the state should largely control the growing defense industry like Baykar, and that no private sector should be allowed to produce weapons on its own.
If you only give it to the private sector, it’s a big risk for Turkey,” he said recently at a pre-election rally.
Although Kiliçdaroğlu made it clear that he personally had nothing against Bayraktar, the fact remains that the latter could well emerge sooner or later as a formidable leader of the AKP, which worries him.
Erdogan has already announced that this will be his last election, regardless of the results of the polls.
And this means that the AKP is looking for a successor to whom it can hand over the reins.
As neither of his sons are interested in politics and prefer to focus on their respective business interests, Erdogan previously promoted his eldest son-in-law Berat Albayrak, husband of his eldest daughter Esra.
Erdogan had appointed him first minister of energy and natural resources then minister of finance and the economy of the country.
But Albayrak was forced to resign under controversial circumstances in 2020.
So now Erdogan finds himself with his youngest son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar, who is married to President Sümeyye Erdoğan’s youngest daughter.
It is said that even if Erdogan is rejected, Bayraktar’s success has made him so popular in Turkey that no government can ignore him and his society.
His influence in Turkish politics is likely to increase.
Indeed, due to its commercial success, Bayraktar is now compared to the American Elon Musk, the richest man in the world.
Smart and handsome, Bayraktar is 43 years old.
He took the original automotive materials family business, founded by Özdemir’s father in the 1980s, to new heights.
He studied engineering in Pennsylvania and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He returned to Turkey from the United States in 2007 and helped establish Baykar’s drone division.
The revolution came seven years later, when the company equipped the Turkish army with drones in the fight against the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Waiting for Erdogan
Although Bayraktar has yet to publicly declare his intention to join politics, the fact remains that he seems to be doing things with a strong political advantage.
He promised to build 1,000 new homes and 2,000 shipping containers for the victims of the February 6 earthquake.
It is noted that this earthquake, one of the most tragic, killed more than 50,000 people and made hundreds of thousands of people homeless.
Second, despite his technical training in the United States, he regularly posts Islamic blessings on Instagram and Twitter, where he is said to have around two and a half million followers.
And here it should be noted that during the 20 years of his reign, President Erdogan has systematically moved Turkey away from the path laid down by the legendary Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey as a secular democracy.
He promoted soft Islamic governance, which explains Bayraktar’s “Islamic” posts on tweets and Instagram.
Third, Bayraktar’s family was close to Turkish politics even before his marriage to Erdogan’s daughter.
Özdemir’s father was a confidant of former Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, so much so that the prototype Bayraktar TB2 drone was dedicated to Erbakan.
In short, Bayraktar has the pedigree, the money and the fame to succeed in politics.
However, he is young and can still wait for Erdogan to officially retire from Turkish politics.
In any case, his success has made him so popular in Turkey that no government will ignore him and his company.
After all, arms manufacturers and their investors around the world are generally confident about their prospects, regardless of which candidate or party wins the election.
This is even more true in Turkey, because such a manufacturer has all the attributes that could make any politician successful.