The American Interest

Erdogan Unleashed

A successful national leader (“good” or “bad”) is able to redefine the terms of what is politically possible in accordance with his values, and to produce durable desired outcomes.  Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan come to mind at home, and Churchill, De Gaulle, and Deng Xiaoping abroad.  Very few are able to effect a profound, long-lasting transformation of their societies.  Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin tried hard but failed; Emperor Meiji, Mahatma Gandhi, and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk succeeded.

On these terms, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the most successful major-country political leader in today’s world.  Since 2002 he has craftily subverted Atatürk’s legacy while paying lip service to its tenets, and nullified the army as a political factor while grooming a new generation of loyal post-Kemalist officers.

After winning 53 percent of the vote in the election on June 24, at the age of 64 Erdogan is now a head of state and government with unprecedented powers and an effectively unlimited mandate.  Empowered to rule by decree and appoint judges, he is an autocrat in all but name.  His Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a reduced majority in separate parliamentary elections, necessitating an alliance with the overtly chauvinistic Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), but this is a minor irritant since the role of the National Assembly...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here