Trump taking a page out of Erdoğan’s book - analyst

The United States under the leadership of Donald Trump appears poised to become a more sizeable version of Turkey, reverberating with the echoes of Turkey’s descent into autocracy under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, wrote Turkish journalist and commentator Ece Temelkuran.

Both leaders wax lyrical about true national identity and the dithering of the political establishment, while trampling over the respected institutions of the country, Temelkuran said in Foreign Affairs Magazine on Wednesday.

Erdoğan and Trump have succeeded at styling themselves as underdogs and victims of the powers that be, the analyst underscored, pointing to the role of U.S. Democrats and mainstream media in allowing the U.S. president to present himself as an insurgent, despite being in power.

The ruling Islamist party of Erdoğan swept to victory in 2012 as a protest against Turkey’s old guard politicians. The Turkish president stepped into office as an underdog after having served four months for reciting a poem in 1997 under laws designed to battle Islamic fundamentalism.

But in “the past 18 years, Erdogan and his allies have expanded the remit of the executive, co-opted important institutions, and clamped down on dissent,’’ Temelkuran wrote. “ The polarized vision of the country that powered the  (Justice and Development Party )AKP to triumph in 2002 remains the animating force of Erdogan’s rule.’’

Trump stepped into office casting himself as a flame-thrower to a political establishment,  “inveighing against “leftists” and cosmopolitan elites and describing his critics as inherently anti-American,’’ Temelkuran wrote.

The opposition in the United States must learn a lesson from Turkey and not squander the potential of energised mass support, the analyst said, pointing to the latter’s failure in harnessing the energy of the unions and working-class Turks during times of protest.

Critics have pointed to the similarities between Turkey’s 2013 Gezi Park protests and recent George Floyd protests on racial discrimination in the United States, saying that both nationwide demonstrations were met with a strong government crackdown and used as a tool to pit the masses - in the already polarised countries - against each other.

“Turkey was not always the arena of authoritarian, right-wing politics,’’ Temelkuran wrote, “Believe it or not, you, too, can be like us.’’