There is something old about Erdoğan’s ‘New Turkey’ – Cengiz Çandar

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has long been promoting a vision of a “New Turkey”, which challenges scholars and intellectuals to seek to make sense of his policy decisions in that light.

But in fact, the roots of Erdoğan’s “New Turkey” go further back, to the last days of the Ottoman Empire, wrote Cengiz Çandar, a veteran journalist and a visiting scholar at the Institute for Turkish Studies at the University of Stockholm:

“Since 2015, Turkey has been governed by a nationalist coalition that is an amalgam of neo-unionists, traditional ethnic Turkish right-wing nationalists and Islamist nationalists.”

This is a coalition of two distinct and at times opposing traditions: the secular nationalism of the Young Turks, and the Islamism of the Sultan Abdülhamid II whom the Young Turks deposed in 1909.

But when it comes to upholding state authoritarianism, the two sides were not easily distinguishable, wrote Çandar, saying it was Young Turks who finished Abdülhamid II’s annihilation of the Ottoman Armenians.

Hence, Erdoğan’s embrace of both the Islamism of Abdülhamid II and the secularist founding father Atatürk at the same time is addressing the very pillars of the Turkish state, Çandar wrote, and both groups allow each other’s pursue as long as the centralist underpinnings of Turkey are not endangered.

What is new about Erdoğan’s “New Turkey” is this unprecedented alliance of neo-nationalists and the Islamists in today’s Turkey, Çandar said.


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