Erdoğan the ‘majoritarian’ keeps power at all costs - analysis

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is less of a populist than a majoritarian, weaving popular themes and manipulating cultural animosities to achieve power, then maintains it at all costs, said Ishaan Tharoor in the Washington Post.

Erdoğan has fumed at the United States as it supported Kurds in Syria, using nationalist and religious themes that increasingly define his rule, said Tharoor, the newspaper’s foreign affairs writer.

“Erdoğan deploys such language for a reason. He may have entered politics as a religiously minded liberal, but he has transformed his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, into a vehicle for expanding his increasingly authoritarian control of Turkey,” he said.

The AKP, once known as a liberal and democratic Islamic party, is now vehicle for Erdoğan to orchestrate his dominance over Turkey’s society and culture, advancing social conservatism in many walks of life, according to Tharoor.

Polling shows that Turks are deeply divides between Erdoğan and his political opponents and a large majority of them have a negative attitude toward the West. Furthermore, majorities polled both see themselves as secularist but say Islam plays a central role in their lives, he said.

“In a deeply polarized country, the sentiments reflect the platform through which Erdoğan has built a majority to buttress his rule, bringing together Turkish ultra-nationalists and more pious conservatives who, in a previous generation, would have been unlikely political bedfellows,” Tharoor said.

Turkey is far from alone in this. There are similar dynamics in illiberal governments in Hungary and Poland, where politicians have mixed Catholic devotion with “post-Stalinist patriotism”. The Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi in India is another example, he said.