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Obama and Erdogan

Aaron Goldstein has an unusual interpretation of the protests in Turkey:

Even if Taksim Square becomes Tahrir Square, Obama has Erdogan’s back. As long as Obama remains in the White House, Erdogan isn’t going anywhere. However, Erdogan’s luck could run out with Obama’s successor.

It is doubtful that Erdogan will be forced from power, but it has nothing to do with who our president happens to be. Erdogan has always been a populist demagogue with heavy-handed and sometimes authoritarian instincts, and the latter have become more pronounced the longer that he and his party have been in power. This has worked to his advantage when he has picked popular causes to support/exploit, but lately it has been backfiring on him as he takes more controversial or deeply unpopular stands. Turkey has increasingly become a one-party state under the AKP. That is partly a testament to the weakness of the Kemalist opposition and the successes of the ruling party in its economic reforms, and it is also proof of the ruling party’s urge to consolidate political power and quash dissent when it arises. Erdogan’s heavy-handed and tone-deaf response to the protests in Turkey is a continuation of how he has treated internal dissent for a long time, but it is also an expression of his assumption, reinforced by multiple general election victories, that he and his party really do speak for the majority of the country. Turkey has become more democratic in important respects over the last decade, but it has also become more illiberal, which is what can happen when populist majoritarian political forces displace an unrepresentative, less democratic system.

The fixation on Obama here is comical. The consolidation of AKP political power has been happening since the early 2000s, and it was the same Turkey governed by the AKP that the previous administration so eagerly wanted in the EU. If popular support for the AKP collapses, or if Erdogan’s allies decide that they would be better off by having him resign, that could trigger Erdogan’s downfall. Whether Obama wants him in office or not is irrelevant in a country where the vast majority holds a negative view of the U.S.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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