Erdogan’s Turkey: A rule more ruthless
The son of Erdogan is crime buseness person: full corruption deals, with telekom firms
March 28, 2012 8:15 pm
Erdogan’s Turkey: A rule more ruthless
A decade on, the AKP government’s hold on power is ever more authoritarian
His pictures and posters are these days almost as ubiquitous as those of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founding father of the modern Turkish nation. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has come to tower over the country’s political landscape. Elected last June for the third time since 2002 and with a still rising share of the vote, he is a prime minister preternaturally buoyed by the strength of his rapport with the Anatolian heartland.
In Mr Erdogan’s decade, Turkey has re-emerged as a regional power. Its economy has grown at near-Chinese speed, spreading wealth and healthcare, schools and roads, while a new breed of “Anatolian tiger” entrepreneurs has risen up against the incumbent handful of business conglomerates. The ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), refined from the debris of two banned Islamist parties into a Muslim version of Christian democracy, has sidelined the secular elites that had ruled as of right the republic created by Ataturk.
On this story
- Alawites allege Ankara is biased
- Education reforms divide Turkey
- Turkish leader attacks US writer amid plot claims
- Four Turkish journalists released from jail
On this topic
- Former Turkish president on trial for 1980 coup
- Turkish boom belies slower growth
- Pace of Turkish economic expansion slows
- Detained Turks highlight press freedom
- US economy A market on the move
- World Bank An exercise of influence
- Global finance Conflicting signals
- A chilling end in Chongqing
Mr Erdogan devoted his first term to overdue political reform and strengthening civil and minority rights. He used his popularity to shove Turkey’s mighty generals offstage during a stormy second term. Now, he faces no rival to his power – and his tolerance of any challenge to it is shrinking.
Along with a gathering air of authoritarianism, many detect the first whiff of hubris. Prosecutions of journalists, violations of due process in cases against political foes and the ramming through of contentious legislation all attest to the trend. If the constitutional revolution started by the AKP – after decades of managed democracy by the army and the Kemalist establishment – is going backwards, it is a development that could have big implications for a country that has an increasing clout on the world stage.
While there is no single reason for the shift, Mr Erdogan’s fiery temperament is clearly a factor. Although some observers believe his outbursts are calculated, one Istanbul commentator says he has “eagerly embraced the solitude of power”. Hakan Altinay, chairman of the Open Society Foundation in Istanbul, a branch of George Soros’s advocacy organisation, says “the only feedback he’s interested in is acclaim and loyalty”. Even an AKP loyalist MP acknowledges the problem: “He listens but he thinks he knows everything already and that ‘whatever I decide, works’.”
The prime minister’s outmanoeuvring of the military – more than one in 10 generals are now behind bars for alleged plots against his government – has removed a check on executive power, however undemocratic. More damagingly, a paralysis in negotiations on accession to the European Union has shut down a formidable engine of democratic renewal.
Last year, Turkey leapfrogged Vladimir Putin’s Russia in the number of cases brought against it at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, its 159 cases outstripping Russia’s 121. In the absence of Brussels, Strasbourg has some leverage. This month, the journalists Nedim Sener and Ahmet Sik, in pre-trial detention for more than a year for writings on the influence inside the Turkish state of the shadowy Islamist movement inspired by Fetullah Gulen, a US-based imam, were released – only days before the court was due to hear their complaint.
That still leaves 104 journalists in jail, 69 of them from the Kurdish minority and more than Iran (42) and China (27) combined. The old joke about committing journalism has real bite in Turkey, especially after Mr Erdogan himself, speaking last April in Strasbourg of all places, likened Mr Sik’s then unpublished book on the Gulenists to a bomb.
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