Politics & Policy

Turkey Is on the Path to Rogue Dictatorship

Turkish president Recep Erdogan (Yuri Corteza/AFP/Getty)

Should President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK party not win a majority of seats in Turkey’s Nov. 1 vote, the mainstream media hold that his power will diminish. The headline of a much-circulated Reuters analysis sums up this view: “Erdogan seen with little choice but to share power after Turkish vote.” Agence France-Presse predicts that winning less than half the seats “would again force [the AKP] to share power or call yet another election.” Almost identically, Middle East Online sees this situation forcing the AKP “to share power or organise yet another election.” And so on, almost invariably including the words “share power.”

But what if Erdogan chooses not to share power? If so, he has two options. If the results are close, election fraud is a distinct possibility; reports suggest sophisticated software (think Volkswagen) to skew the results.

If the results are not close, Erdogan can sideline the parliament, the prime minister, the other ministers, and the whole damn government. This sidelining option, which the press ignores as a possibility, follows directly from Erdogan’s past actions. Since he left the prime ministry in August 2014 to become Turkey’s president, he has diminished his old office, depriving it of nearly all authority. He turned it over to a professorial foreign-policy theorist with no political base, Ahmet Davutoglu, and controls him so tightly that Davutoglu cannot even decide on his own aides (who also double as Erdogan’s informants).

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At the same time, Erdogan built himself a 1,005-room presidential palace housing a staff of 2,700 which constitutes a bureaucracy that potentially can take over the other ministries of state, leaving a seemingly unchanged government in place that behind the scenes follows orders from the palace.

Erdogan will surely sideline parliament as well; not by turning it into a grotesque North Korea–style rubber-stamp assembly but into an Egypt- or Iran-style body consumed with secondary matters (school examinations, new highways) while paying close heed to wishes of the Big Boss.

#share#Then, to complete his takeover, he will deploy his many tools of influence to control the judiciary, the media, corporations, the academy, and the arts. He will also shut down private dissent, especially on social media, as suggested by the many lawsuits he and his cronies have initiated against ordinary citizens who dare criticize him.

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At this point, the Hugo Chávez/Vladimir Putin of Turkey, the one who compared democracy to a trolley (“You ride it until you arrive at your destination, then you step off”) will truly have arrived at his destination. As a reward, he may even declare himself the caliph of all Muslims.

Returning to the present: The number of AKP seats in parliament hardly matters because Erdogan will do what it takes, legally or illegally, to become the new sultan. He will not have to “share power,” but will seize more power by hook (sidelining parliament) or crook (electoral fraud). Foreign capitals need to prepare for the unpleasant likelihood of a rogue dictatorship in Turkey.


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