AMANDA – ErdoIan — king of populism

ErdoIan — king of populism In the run-up to the August presidential election, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan has become increasingly paranoid and populist. He is picking fights with anyone who dares to criticize him or the policies of his government while also ramping up his populist behavior. Unfortunately, ErdoIan is today allowing populism and paranoia to drive his politics, to his and the region’s detriment. He is like a bull in a china shop in terms of his ability to carry out diplomacy, which has left Turkey on the periphery — or worse — in its ability to play a useful role in issues topping the international agenda, including those related to Syria, Egypt and Ukraine. ErdoIan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has fewer and fewer friends in the West. Those who come to Turkey and raise their concerns over the democratic backtracking should expect to receive a tongue-lashing from ErdoIan, as we saw earlier this week following the comments of German President Joachim Gauck, who criticized the anti-democratic developments in Turkey. ErdoIan responded in a very unstatesmanlike manner. While ErdoIan is entitled not to like what the German president had to say — although his comments were actually spot on — and to respond to this, it is a question of language. ErdoIan frequently uses very bad language unbecoming of a prime minister and international diplomacy. ErdoIan is just not bothered. He has a “whatever” approach. He is drunk on power, having comfortably won the March 30 local elections. With his majoritarian, populist approach to governance, he seems to have decided that as long as his support base is happy with how he conducts his business, including his foreign policy, why should he change his approach? Certainly his recent behavior reflects this. Beyond his rebuke of President Gauck for his remarks, over the last few days there have been at least three other issues which have underlined his populist approach: first, his criticism of the DoIan Media Group for what he considered its insufficient coverage of the death sentences of the Muslim Brotherhood representatives in Egypt second, his request to Washington that the US extradite Fethullah Gulen despite the fact that Gulen has not been charged with any crime (as of yet) in Turkey and third, his comments claiming that the US was behind — or at the very least supporting — the anti-government protests not only in Turkey but also in Egypt and more recently in Ukraine. Hence his unstatesmanlike behavior seems set to continue while at the same time we are not likely to see a massive change in Turkish foreign-policy calculations. Of course this was not always the case. During the first part of ErdoIan’s reign as prime minister, he was extremely popular with his foreign counterparts. After years of coalition governments that seemed to crumble almost as soon as they were formed, ErdoIan and the AKP were like a breath of fresh air. He was viewed as a real “doer” and not just a “talker.” He listened and took criticisms into consideration and then carried out reforms. He made progress on issues which had been taboo for years, such as the Kurdish issue, and led the country to economic success. In 2004 he was voted European of the Year by Belgian paper European Voice. At one point, US President Barack Obama declared that ErdoIan was among three of the four leaders whom he regularly spoke to on the phone. This implied that he viewed ErdoIan as a confidant and sound ally, that they had a “common language and common values.” I doubt Obama is that keen on speaking to ErdoIan these days. Meanwhile, friends of Turkey in Europe reportedly do not want to talk to the prime minister, considering it to be a waste of time. Today ErdoIan is leading Turkey further and further down the road of authoritarianism to a land where democracy and values are cherry-picked by the prime minister. Only this week a new report by Freedom House rated the media in Turkey as “Not Free” last year it was pegged at “Partly Free.” No doubt ErdoIan will repeat that Freedom House is part of an internal conspiracy to undermine him. Today ErdoIan does not speak the language of the West but neither is he speaking the language of the East or the Arab world. He is speaking a language that is unique to him and his followers.

SOURCE: Todays Zaman

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