Mar 28 2018

Erdoğan is unravelling Ataturk’s legacy – opinion

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is unravelling the legacy of Turkey’s founder and first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, writes Hannah Lucinda Smith in a blog for the Spectator.

“If there is a place in Turkey where Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the swaggering six-foot president, looks small it is at the tomb of the nation’s founder. Anitkabir, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s mausoleum,” Smith said. “Observers, though, question for how much longer he will feel the need to demonstrate deference. No matter their feelings about Erdoğan, no Turk will deny that he is already the only leader to come close to Ataturk in the extent to which he has changed the country.”

Erdoğan, who as prime minister then president has now served as leader of Turkey for longer than Ataturk, who died prematurely in istanbul in November 1938, has taken the military out of politics, empowered the conservative poor and overseen Turkey’s rise from a nation crippled by hyper-inflation to a proper middle income country, Smith said.

His authoritarian turn is undeniable, having muzzled the media and ousted dissenters from his party. Yet Erdoğan is also a politician who built his strength on pure populism: without the support of the masses he is nothing, and he knows it, she said.

“Perhaps the biggest democratic problem in today’s Turkey is the lack of a credible opposition,” said Smith. “For almost two decades, the old secular elite – represented by the CHP, the party that Ataturk founded – have flailed and failed to find ways to wrest control of the political narrative from Erdoğan. The CHP’s leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has joined in with the jingoism on Afrin. Otherwise, his tactic is to criticise Erdoğan rather than come up with policies of his own.”