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Jan 07 2019

Erdoğan’s fall ‘could come sooner rather than later’ - Guardian

The fallout from the killing of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi suggests the global surge of right-wing nationalist strongmen may have peaked, putting authoritarians on watch around the world, said the London-based Guardian.

A hearing in Riyadh last week, opening the trial of 11 people charged with killing Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, “suggests even a state as autocratic, inward-looking and undemocratic as Saudi Arabia is not immune to international opinion and can be forced, in extremis, to respect the human right of justice,” columnist Simon Tisdall wrote on Sunday.

The Khashoggi killing has been “a chastening lesson” for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who had been lauded at home and abroad for modest reforms and his determination to beat Iran.

“His reversal of fortune confounded the accepted narrative of an inexorable, global rise of like-minded, authoritarian ‘strongman’ figures, riding waves of reviving nationalism and intolerant, rightwing populist and unilateralist sentiment,” added Tisdall, who sees other signs “that this toxic surge may be nearing its high point.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is still firmly in power, but his hard-right policies have come under severe attack. Large street protests in Budapest last month called for an independent judiciary and media and the repeal of a “slave law” undermining workers’ rights.

Kickback against overly authoritarian and anti-democratic leaders is more problematic, such as in Egypt under Abdel Fatah al-Sisi or Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Sisi won a rigged presidential election last year, and there is talk of abolishing term limits so he can remain in office indefinitely. But “rule by fear, aggravated by utter incompetence, can only last so long,” Tisdall wrote.

Then there is Erdoğan, who succeeded last year in taking all the reins of power after winning the presidential election.

“Now the blame for numerous national problems – the economy, security, corruption, censorship, abuse of power – lies with him,” wrote Tisdall, citing last week’s New York Times story on thousands of Turks fleeing abroad. “It’s clear that in Erdoğan’s boundless hubris lie the seeds of his destruction. Downfall could come sooner rather than later.”

Tisdall goes on to say India’s Narendra Modi faces a tough re-election this year, while China’s Xi Jinping “appears clueless in the face of an economic slowdown.”

Finally, he wonders how “ultimate strongman wannabe” U.S. President Donald Trump will react to greater resistance in the Democrat-led House.

“If, like failing authoritarian leaders everywhere, he tries instead to impose his will by any available means – such as declaring a bogus ‘national emergency’ – the resulting domestic and global disruption will be severe,” Tisdall wrote.