Jun 04 2018

The appeal of Turkey’s Erdoğan enhanced by anti-Western stance

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s enduring appeal to voters owes something to his achievements in the first years of AKP power, but is bolstered by Turkey’s increasingly anti-Western outlook, wrote editorial associate Fergus McKeown in the website Market Mogul.

When Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) first came to power in 2002, Turkey was in dire economic straits. But the new government managed to turn things around, with the economy growing by around 6 percent each year. More recently, though, these achievements risk being overshadowed as the economy falters once more.

Even so, Erdoğan “looks set to be returned for a second term as president. Goodwill in politics can only get one so far, and whatever reservoirs Erdoğan has built up, there are other factors at play which will help him win,” McKeown wrote.

Amongst those factors was the fallout from July 2016’s coups attempt, following which, “nearly every aspect of civil society that may have been anti-Erdoğan was decimated. Negative coverage of the regime within the country has effectively been silenced as journalists live in fear of imprisonment.”

Turkey’s increasing rejection of the West since 2013 has also played a role, suggested McKeown. The rise and fall of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who swept to power in 2012 and was seen as a key Middle Eastern ally of Turkey only to be deposed a year after his inauguration, paved the way for Erdoğan’s growing distaste for the West.

Events in Syria then served to exacerbate divisions with the West, with Turkey drawing criticism for allowing Islamist fighters to enter Syria through Turkey and Western support for Syrian Kurdish groups closely allied to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has waged a decades long armed struggle against the Turkish state.

“Erdoğan, as a result, has been able to paint himself as a strong, independent, Muslim statesman, standing up to global and secular pressure that is firmly set against Turkish interests. It is a portrait that is believed by many within Turkey.”

Whilst Erdoğan is not assured of victory in the June 24 elections, if he does win “it will likely mean a further distance from the West, further political repression and further authoritarianism. It remains to be seen if he has managed to portray himself enough as the right, the only, choice for Turkey.”