Istanbul --Covering Turkey as a foreign journalist involves working under a very long shadow. A shadow cast by a still hugely vigorous 64-year old man, 1.85 metres tall, who has ruled the country for the last 15 years. And after winning elections on June 24, will do so for at least another five years, possibly ten. Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdoğan dominates news cycle but Putin has margin of safety
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dominates the news cycle in his home country, sometimes speaking three times in a day, AFP correspondent Stuart Williams said in an atmospheric piece on how the charismatic leader looms large over everything at present.
However, Williams said, unlike Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdoğan does not have the approval ratings or the demographics to rest on his laurels.
“The fact remains that, despite all the well-chronicled inequalities in Turkey’s campaign, Erdogan faced a genuine contest in these elections which many analysts even thought would go to a second round. For Putin, by contrast, the 2018 elections seemed more like a coronation,” he said.
“Demographics explain a lot. Turkey is (almost) split evenly between those favouring and opposing Erdogan, who got over the finishing line with 52.6 percent of the vote. Putin won over 76 percent of the vote in Russia’s elections and for all the suppression of the opposition in Russia, it’s still safe to say he enjoys the support of a vast majority of Russians.”
The perspectives of Erdoğan’s supporters and critics are vastly different, Williams said, which meant that even at the times when Erdoğan was not talking, his people were talking – and arguing – about him.
“For his supporters, Erdogan is nothing less than Turkey’s saviour, the man who made the country stand taller than any time in its post-Ottoman history and defeated the bloody July 15, 2016 coup bid against his rule,” he said.
“But for detractors, Erdogan is taking Turkey on dangerous path economically and politically, presiding over the widest crackdown in its history that has included the arrest of journalists and opposition.”