Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
|Oh no, they're talking about|
“”Democracy is like a train. We shall get out when we arrive at the station we want.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan[note 1] (1954–) is a Turkish politician serving as the 12th and current president of Turkey since 2014. He came to power as head of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi or AKP in Turkish), promising to solve the country’s economic and social problems. A religious nationalist populist who came from poverty, he first became Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998, earning a good name for himself as an honest politician and a man of the people. He later served as Prime Minister from 2003 to 2014, and in 2014, became President. Under his tenure as President, Turkey has experienced massive democratic backsliding and economic decline, as he rules much more in the manner of past Sultans than Presidents. Current ETA is: "It's done when it's done".
The AKP is the first religion-based party to gain power since modern Turkey was established as a secular republic in the 1920s under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Erdoğan himself is an authoritarian figure whose violent suppression of a protest in Istanbul caused a massive counter-reaction lasting several weeks. His inflammatory, over-the-top remarks fueled the protests and led to a widening of support for the demonstrators.
He has an autocratic style and thinks his majoritarian credentials give him carte blanche to treat any who opposes him as scum, making him the most powerful Turkish leader since Atatürk. He greatly reduced the power of the military with his frequent purges (i.e. weakening the only thing that can challenge his authority), and is in the process of introducing a new, authoritarian constitution.[note 2] Erdoğan currently controls the largest military in Europe (if one considers Turkey to be European) and is the most powerful player in the Middle East outside of the Gulf States. So Erdoğan's authoritarianism worries democracy proponents.
Despite his autocratic style, and his Islamist influences (which are very mild compared to most Middle Eastern forms of Islamism), Erdoğan has occasionally been a democratizing force for Turkey. Due to his reforms, the chances of a military coup occurring were thought to be slim to none.
But this isn't such an obviously good thing as it might first appear. To describe the role of the military in Turkish politics as "complex" is a massive understatement. Unlike other countries, the Turkish military tends to act as a stabilizing force. It sees itself as the guardian of "Kemalism," the principles of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which include secularism and republicanism. In 1980, the military staged a coup after national politics was paralyzed by waves of political violence that killed thousands and brought the economy to near-total collapse. The military were hardly Boy Scouts – imprisoning and torturing many thousands in the aftermath of the coup – but they stabilized the economy and within three years restored at least a nominal democracy. Since then, the fiercely secularist military have intervened twice (in 1997 and 2007) to nudge out or forestall the election of Islamist presidents. These latter episodes cast Erdoğan's efforts to limit the military in an interesting light.
Erdoğan is yet another Armenian Genocide denialist. Yet he has no issue accusing other nations of genocide or genocidal intent, such as France or Israel. In 2008, he criticised a group of intellectuals who decided that the genocide really happened, saying "Muslims do not commit genocide." He has also overseen a drift towards reduction of minority rights, freedom of the press and free speech.
Mass protests in 2013
In 2013, Erdoğan's government authorised the building of a supermarket in a small park in İstanbul, a large city with few parks. This sparked a protest by locals who wanted to keep hold of their local bit of greenery (and who already had enough supermarkets). Riot police moved in on a peaceful sit-in, provoking national sympathy for the protestors. Demonstrations erupted across Turkey against Islamism and authoritarianism. Erdoğan's inflammatory remarks (routinely calling people "looters" and, of course, "terrorists") only served to fuel the fire.
Erdoğan has been accused of following Putinism, which is a special blend of authoritarianism focusing on nationalism, social conservatism, state capitalism, and government domination of the media.
Much like Putin, Erdoğan's decades-long ultranationalist leadership led to the development of his own ideology, which many have called "Erdoğanism," or Erdoğancılık if you're Turkish. The phrase first emerged when he won the 2011 general election. Described by Turkish writers as an ideology of "elective dictatorship," Erdoğanism is a form of populist authoritarianism (or illiberal democracy) characterized by a strong centralized leadership, glorification of the Ottoman Empire, support for a religious government, opposition to secularism, weakening of the military's influence in politics, suspicion of the West and all perceived Western values or beliefs, disdain for all institutions that challenge the strongman (such as checks and balances or the very idea of separation of powers), and the reestablishment of Turkey as a regional and potentially continental power, all held together by Erdoğan's cult of personality.
Ironically, many Islamists find Erdoğan's personality cult to be deeply offensive, anti-democratic, and even counter-Islamic, because they believe only God is worthy of such deep devotion from the masses, not a mortal blowhard who may lead to the economic ruin (at best) of their country. His alliance with Islamists only lasts if they keep him in power, same with the military, and if either institutions try to reduce his power, he will undermine them in every way possible. Again much like Putin, Erdoğan holds significant control over the media, demonizes and marginalizes the opposition, tries to rig elections in his favor (like when he cancelled and forced a re-run of the Istanbul mayoral election), purges government workers and replaces them with his fanatics (post-coup attempt), arrests reporters and journalists for accurately reporting the news, frequently makes bizarre speeches ranting about the West, pushes through socially conservative policies to embolden his deeply theocratic base, and turns on his former billionaire supporters if they dare challenge his decisions or criticize his policies.
His love affair with the past deserves more of a spotlight. Repeatedly calling for - and actively ushering in - the borderline abolition of Kemalist secularism, Erdoğan has all but announced that Turkey will be a Neo-Ottoman dictatorship if he maintains power, with the same populist throwbacks to "Holy Empire" that Russia invokes. And much like certain periods of Ottoman rule, Erdoğan has been pushing for social legislation that seems like it comes straight from the Qur'an such as curbs on drinking alcohol and abortion. This has led to some controversy in Turkey. He is an Armenian Genocide denier, he sees himself as a modern day Sultan, he dislikes ethnic minorities who dare to challenge his rule, and he views the Middle East as his country's rightful backyard, throwing support behind Turkic nations (see Azerbaijan) or Islamist factions while using the region as a chess match with other nations, including France and ironically Russia. Erdoğan views the pro-European, rakı-drinking businessmen of İstanbul in a very similar way as Trump sees California, or Farage sees Gibraltar, Scotland or Northern Ireland. In fact, much like Trump, Erdoğan's demonization of the left wing is tinged with racism, as the Kurdish people (particularly younger Kurds) are frequently met with police brutality.
Much like Russia's Putin and the Communist Party of China, international analysts believe that Erdoğan's power comes from the fact that Turkey's economy is growing and that the nation's people will generally let him do whatever the hell he wants in exchange for economic prosperity. Under Erdoğan, Turkey has joined Russia, Hungary (to a lesser extent), and other states that mix (somewhat) free market capitalism with an illiberal democracy.
Despite this, Putin and Erdoğan have had an uneasy relationship. Turkey has supported Azerbaijan and Russia supported Armenia via the Wagner Group in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war. Turkey has played both sides in Russia's invasion of Ukraine by supplying military drones to Ukraine, but also by buying grain allegedly from Russia that was stolen from Ukraine.
While still serving as Prime Minister, Erdoğan pulled a Putin and ran for the Presidency. While the position is supposed to be nonpartisan and neutral, Erdoğan openly stated that he would not abide by neutrality, and used his newfound authority to appoint, not nominate, his successor as head of the right-wing AKP and Prime Minister. The Cabinet remains dominated by Erdoğan loyalists, meaning his policies and his agenda would still be pursued by the government.
During the June 2015 election, Erdoğan publicly called for voters to give a majority to his former party, the AKP, which is a brazenly illegal move since it, once again, violates presidential neutrality. In February 2015, a 13-year-old child was arrested after allegedly criticizing Erdoğan on Facebook. He passed new laws that gave greater power to the government over the judiciary, including the authority to sack secular judges and stacking courts with AKP supporters. He signed into law a bill that allows the government to block websites without prior court order on 12 September 2014. He was able to briefly ban Twitter and YouTube.
He created an obscenely large and opulent Presidential Palace in a 50-acre area that was legally and judicially-protected land. Construction of the palace resumed, and the end result is a visually offensive Sultanesque throne that spans 300,000 m2 (3,200,000 sq ft). Ak Saray, the name of the palace, was originally designed as a new office for the Prime Minister. However, upon assuming the presidency, Erdoğan unilaterally announced that the palace would become the new Presidential Palace, while the Çankaya Köşkü—the previous and historical office of the presidency — will be used by the Prime Minister instead. The Ak Saray has almost 1,000 rooms and cost $350 million (€270 million); the workers clearly won't reap the benefits of what they made from it.
It came to a head in June 2015. Long story short, he wanted a supermajority in parliament for the AKP, which would allow Erdoğan to pass constitutional reforms that would transition Turkey into a presidential republic and expand his set of powers. The good people of Turkey, however, voted for the secular, social democratic Kurdish party instead, denying him not only the supermajority but relegating the AKP to a minority government that has to form a coalition if it plans to stay in power.
This didn't last long. His AKP party couldn't form a coalition government, and Erdoğan called snap elections in October of 2015. Erdoğan intensified crackdowns on the press, ordered the police to raid the offices of two Turkish opposition newspapers using water cannon and tear gas, and exploited a double suicide bombing in Ankara, which left nearly 100 Kurds, leftists and union members at an anti-war rally dead, as a wedge issue to net him some more votes. It was the worst terrorist attack to ever occur on Turkish soil, and many are accusing Erdoğan of allowing it to happen. He later won a comfortable majority in the October 2015 election, but still short of the supermajority needed to change the constitution in his favor.
In March 2016, a conservative newspaper, Zaman, was raided by government forces and seized. Activists urging for peace with the Kurds face imprisonment. The crackdown continued even as Erdoğan visited Washington, D.C., when his goons roughed up protesters and activists, while he tried to further encroach on freedom of the press.
Role in the Syrian Civil War
This is easily his most uncomfortable policy. As a strident opponent of Bashar al-Assad and a supporter of regime change in Syria, Erdoğan became a leading instigator in the proxy war within Syria. As early as 2012, when the civil war began, the CIA funneled weapons into the hands of anti-Assad forces from the Turkish side of the border, using Turkey's connections with the Muslim Brotherhood to do so. Can Dündar, the Editor-in-Chief of news outlet Cumhuriyet, published video footage confirming that Turkish trucks, ostensibly loaded with humanitarian supplies, were actually filled with arms bound for terror groups fighting against Assad, and that those trucks were operated by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT). Erdoğan called for a life sentence to Dündar for releasing the evidence.
That same website distributed video footage and transcripts of wiretaps to Turkish courts accusing Turkish security forces of assisting in shelling and support operations for Nusra Front (al-Qaeda) in and around Kassab, Syria, among other sites. Audio was released on YouTube showing Erdoğan contemplating carrying out an actual false flag operation within Syria to justify open military intervention; he tried banning YouTube again after the audio was leaked.
According to Reuters, Erdoğan set up a secret base with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to "direct vital military and communications aid" to Syria’s opposition from a city near the border. "It’s the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main coordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom," said a Doha-based source. In early 2015, Turkey carried out a military incursion into Syria, supposedly to "evacuate" the tomb of Süleyman Shah, the grandfather of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire. Mujahideen were allowed entry to and from the Turkish border with Syria; many of those foreign fighters, as well as the armed opposition, ended up joining the Islamic State.
It's not even a question anymore: Ankara directly assisted and cooperated with DAESH and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq against Bashar al-Assad. Furthermore, Turkey has openly supported Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, both of which are aligned with al-Qaeda. When the Islamic State besieged the town of Kobani, Turkey refused to help the Kurdish defenders, despite having dozens of tanks and hundreds of troops stationed hundreds of meters away from the battlefield. Demonstrations demanding that Turkey come to the Kurds’ aid were suppressed by the police, and hundreds of Kurds were killed by DAESH before Kobani pushed them out.
After a building was bombed by militants within Turkey, Erdoğan ordered bombings… on non-state Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria, who are specifically fighting DAESH. This was after Ankara-backed American lobbyists tried to block U.S. military assistance to Kurdish fighters in 2014. While there have been a few token strikes against DAESH over the course of months, Erdoğan is focusing almost all of his effort on the Kurds instead, and is ignoring Daesh, because he is that afraid of Kurdish autonomy (Kurds make up 20% of the population in Turkey). In fact, on 28 June, 2015, Erdoğan reportedly urged parliament to strip lawmakers of immunity from prosecution if they have ties to militants. This is a shot across the bow at the HDP, the secular and progressive Kurdish opposition party that #REKT him in the 2015 election. If he succeeds, the HDP MPs will be arrested, and Erdoğan will call for early elections, so he can get the super-majority needed to change the constitution in his favor. The vast majority of arrests after the bombing in Turkey were directed at Kurds and Erdoğan's left-wing opponents. He has since blocked Twitter once images of violence against Kurds made the rounds online. To this day, Erdoğan continues to fire tank shells at anti-ISIS Kurdish fighters in Syria on almost a weekly basis, destroying vehicles and wounding fighters.
Also, to reiterate, because it bears repeating: he is directly assisting ISIS.
The man can take no criticism
Erdoğan is well known in Turkey for suing people who make fun of him or criticize him or expose anything that would show him in a bad light. Unfortunately, Erdoğan has an increasingly not-independent justice system and the police at his disposal, so most of the time Erdoğan ends up winning. When, in 2016, German TV made a mildly funny video about him, that earned the German ambassador a stern talking to (pretty much the harshest thing you can do in the diplomatic relations of two "friendly" nations). As a reaction to this Jan Böhmermann made a "poem" that insulted Erdoğan to prove a point about what satire can and cannot do. Naturally, Erdoğan sued (with the help of a 19th-century German law against the insulting of crowned heads) and the federal government signed off on prosecution.
Turkey saw an overwhelming increase in Internet censorship during his rule. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Ekşi Sözlük (Turkey's equivalent of Reddit, but much worse) have been banned once in a while, for no obvious reason. Censorship is often used
to silence the critics and sweep under the carpet what the people shouldn't hear in the past to protect children from the harms of the Internet. The Other Wiki was banned until October 15, 2020, for its English-language article about Turkish involvement in the Syrian Civil War (which tells how Turkey supported Islamic militants in Syria the lies spread by FETÖ to disinform the public[citation NOT needed]).
Taking over Turkey
2016 military coup attempt
On July 15, 2016, a significant portion of the Turkish military initiated a coup against Erdoğan's government. Denied landing rights in İstanbul, Erdoğan reportedly sought asylum in Germany and was contacted using FaceTime on his smartphone. Erdoğan called for his supporters to rise up in the streets against the military, which they did. Despite flights in and out of the country being temporarily suspended, Erdoğan appeared in İstanbul in public, a suggestion that the coup's attempts were faltering, and it was called off by July 16 – even most of Erdoğan's detractors in Turkey didn't want a military takeover of the country.
The main opposition party calls it a "controlled coup", meaning the coup attempt was recognized in advance by the secret service and used it as a chance to seize absolute power for Erdoğan and destroy the opposition and Gülen movement which accused Erdoğan for his corruption, what was effectively a self-coup.
Excuse to consolidate power
After the failed coup, Erdoğan went full Palpatine by declaring a state of emergency, which has granted him greater powers, and by suspending the compliance of Turkey to the European Convention on Human Rights. Mass arrests, detentions and dismissals followed. According to Amnesty International, several detainees awaiting trial were deprived of basic necessities (sleep, food, water and medical treatment), and the right to contact their families and lawyers, and were beaten, tortured, and raped by law enforcement officers. Erdoğan blamed US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen for the uprising and demanded his extradition; and targeted anyone believed to be tied to or sympathetic to Gülen in any way.
A few months after the coup, members of Erdoğan's party proposed a bill that would change the Constitution to transfer more power to the president. It would abolish the position of Prime Minister, and grants the president the power to appoint and sack all government ministers, dissolve the Parliament, and declare a state of emergency. The bill passed in 2017.
Within Switzerland there has been a PKK-rally where people call for the murder of Erdoğan and has targeted the Turkish consulate with graffiti along the same line, a move which is supported by the Swiss Green Party.
Erdoğan has also largely marginalized the judicial branch by flat out ignoring what they say.
The largest purge was in the field of education, in which "…15,200 education ministry officials lost their jobs and 21,000 private school teachers had their licences revoked…" Additionally, Erdoğan shut down 626 educational institutions Shortly thereafter, Erdoğan ordered the closure of "…1,043 private schools, 1,229 charities and foundations, 19 trade unions, 15 universities and 35 medical institutions over suspected links to the Gulen movement…" The enormous breadth of the academic firings and closures was indicative of how crucial anti-intellectualism was to Erdoğan's fascistic direction.:51-52
Decline in popularity
Since 2018, Erdoğan and the AKP have experienced a decline in popularity to the point where his approval rating is now negative and he was viewed as being vulnerable in 2023 Turkish Presidential Election. This is mainly due to a currency and debt crisis in Turkey which has seen the falling value of Turkey's currency, high inflation, rising borrowing costs, and correspondingly rising loan defaults. Which has been partly caused by Erdoğan's increasing authoritarianism and his unorthodox ideas about interest rate policy (mainly opposing interest rate hikes meant to control the inflation). Some have also noted Turkey's increasing tensions with the United States and Trump's tariffs on some Turkish products such as steel and aluminum in what may be one of most stopped clock moment of Trump's presidency.
The economic crisis that ensued after his re-election culminated in a major defeat at the local elections of March 2019, with the opposition uniting and winning control of most of the big cities. Most notably, the opposition candidate in Istanbul won by just 13,000 votes or 0.2% after the pro-government candidate, former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, was on the lead for hours into the midnight. Binali Yıldırım and Erdoğan didn't like the result, and after numerous objections and recounts, got the electoral commission to nullify the election and order a re-run to be held in June. This backfired spectacularly, and İmamoğlu won the second vote with a 9% difference, becoming the first non-Islamist mayor of Istanbul since 1994.
Erdoğan was reelected to a 5th term in office in 2023 in a close election against unity candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu. The elections were regarded by some as 'free but not fair' due governmental assault on "media freedom, freedom of political organisation, and freedom of expression". 
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