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The New Sultan. Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey


Turkey’s deep societal polarisation is a direct result of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political trajectory. Prime minister of Turkey since 2003 and president since 2014, Erdogan has become the most unassailable Turkish leader since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk established modern Turkey in 1923 out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. A prototype of populist leaders globally, Erdogan has demonised and brutalised demographics that are not likely to vote for him, including leftists and liberals. Erdogan’s populism has helped him built a loyal base composed mostly of conservatives, many of whom he has lifted out of poverty. Accordingly, Turkey is split nearly in the middle: half the country adores him, while the other half loathes him. But, Erdogan wants to shape all of Turkey, including those that loathe him, in his own image, using his power to funnel state resources towards top-down social engineering. To this end, he has decided to push ahead, declaring himself omnipotent president. Half of Turkey though will never embrace Erdogan’s agenda and this will exacerbate Turkey’s deep political crisis.
Keywords: Turkey, Erdogan, polarisation, populist