Erdogan Isn’t as Strong as He Looks – That’s What Makes Him Dangerous, by Conn Hallinan

Turkey’s position in the middle of things—at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, in between Islam and Europe—makes it an important nation to watch. From Conn Hallinan at antiwar.com:

At first glance, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s drive to create an executive presidency with almost unlimited power through a nationwide referendum looks like a slam-dunk.

The man hasn’t lost an election since 1994, and he’s loaded the dice and stacked the deck for the April 15 vote. Using last summer’s failed coup as a shield, he’s declared a state of emergency, fired 130,000 government employees, jailed 45,000 people – including opposition members of parliament – and closed down 176 media outlets. The opposition Republican People’s Party says it’s been harassed by death threats from referendum supporters and arrests by the police.

Meanwhile he’s deliberately picked fights with Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands to help whip up a storm of nationalism, and he charges that his opponents are “acting in concert with terrorists.” Selahattin Demirtas, a member of parliament and co-chair of the Kurdish-dominated People’s Democratic Party, the third largest political formation in Turkey, is under arrest and faces 143 years in prison. Over 70 Kurdish mayors are behind bars.

So why is Erdogan so nervous? Because he has reason to be.

A Wobbly Juggernaut

The juggernaut that Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) put together to dismantle Turkey’s current political system and replace it with a highly centralized executive with the power to dismiss parliament, control the judiciary, and rule by decree has developed a bit of a wobble.

First, Turkey’s nationalists – in particular the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – are deeply split. The leadership of the MHP supports a “yes” vote on the referendum, but as much as 65 percent of the rank and file are preparing to vote “no.”

Second, there is increasing concern over the economy, formerly the AKP’s strong suit. Erdogan won the 2002 election on a pledge to raise living standards – especially for small businesses and among Turks who live in the country’s interior – and he largely delivered on those promises. Under the AKP’s stewardship, the Turkish economy grew, but with a built-in flaw.

To continue reading: Erdogan Isn’t as Strong as He Looks – That’s What Makes Him Dangerous

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