by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
An article in the latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek describes the disturbing tactics employed recently by Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was once hailed as an enlightened leader.
It’s easy to forget that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was once the darling of foreign investors and civil rights activists. They and the European Union cheered ahead of each election victory his party chalked up since coming to power in 2002. But not this time.
On Nov. 1, Turkey will hold the snap election Erdogan called after his ruling Justice and Development, or AK, party failed to secure a majority in June’s parliamentary contest. Rather than allow a coalition that would hinder his plans to consolidate the power he wields from the 3 million-square-foot presidential palace he built last year, he opted for a retry. …
… He has painted an us-or-them choice for voters, and not just between Kurds and Turks. In June he portrayed his domestic opponents as being in a conspiracy with foreign bankers, the New York Times, the BBC, and others “to weaken Turkey, to divide it and to disintegrate it, and then to swallow it.” As outlandish as that may sound, the message is relentlessly reinforced by pro-government media, and it seems to be keeping the faithful from straying. The AK Party remains by far the most popular, with just over 40 percent of those polled in recent surveys voicing their support. The party got 41 percent of the vote in the June election. While a strong showing, that’s not enough to secure it an absolute majority on Nov. 1.
Erdogan is also losing one of his biggest selling points to voters: economic growth. Consumer confidence has had a strong correlation to the AK Party’s electoral fortunes, and it’s falling sharply, according to Bloomberg data. …
… The deteriorating business climate is due partly to police raids on companies and media associated with Erdogan’s estranged allies in the Fetullah Gulen religious movement. His clash with Fetullah Gulen has also led him to purge the judiciary, which contained many Fetullah Gulen adherents, and turn it into a political tool. Since 2012, Turkey’s ranking for the quality of its public institutions has slid to 75th in the world from 56th, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.
While Erdogan’s actions might surprise those who were fans of his earlier campaigns, it’s unlikely that Victor Davis Hanson is shocked. Hanson once wrote: “Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan dreams of reviving the Ottoman Empire.”