Jul 15 2018

Erdoğan and Atatürk as leaders have historical similarities

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s  behaviour of seeking to accumulate more power is not significantly different from that of other Turkish decision-makers, including Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, a Turkey analyst and a researcher at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies said on Sunday. 

According to Yenerocak, Turkish people's admiration of Atatürk and Erdoğan in general reveals their perception of the type of behaviour that is characteristic of their ideal leadership, including symbols of power such as palaces, statues, and even new coins, to their charismatic leaders.

Reminding the harsh criticism of the opposition against Erdoğan’s 115-room presidential palace, Yenerocak said that, for Turks, such a compound might not necessarily be a sign of corruption but a sign of power reminiscent of tremendous Ottoman palaces.

“Indeed, there are many Turks who criticise Erdoğan of extravagance; however, the same camp turns a blind eye when faced with the historical fact that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk spent his last days in Istanbul's Dolmabahçe Palace while enjoying his free time with his "yacht-toy," the Savarona which was bought by the state's treasury,” Yenerocak said.

President Erdoğan’s acts aiming to entrench his authority within the army following the June 24 elections, such as appointing the former Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar to the office of the National Defence Minister, prove that Erdoğan sees himself as the social engineer of his "New Turkey," as Atatürk was for the “Old”, according to Yenerocak. 

“In this new historical chapter, Turkey will undergo many more revolutionary changes, while Erdoğan's charismatic leadership will be strengthened through a neo-Atatürk-style canonisation which will likely remain even after the end of his political term,” he concluded.