Special edition “Le Monde”: Unpredictable Turkey

A key regional power thanks to its geographical position, its demographic weight (83 million inhabitants) and its economic dynamism, Turkey, our neighbor, fascinates and worries us.

In eighteen years in power – including more than eleven years as Prime Minister (2003-2014 -), its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has profoundly transformed the country, establishing himself as the man of “Economic miracle” but also like the one who projects his army and his mercenaries on all areas of war – Syria, Libya, northern Iraq, the Caucasus – at the risk of becoming angry with his traditional partners, Europe and the United States.

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A reformer, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was: his country’s plan to join the European Union was close to his heart, at least in appearance when he came to power in 2003 as prime minister. But little by little, the ideological orientation took precedence over its pragmatism and its early desire to open up. In retrospect, its desire to anchor in the Old Continent, proclaimed loud and clear in the past, appears as a tactic intended to better get rid of the army which was hindering its march towards absolutism.

Authoritarian drift

Internally, the infrastructure has been improved, the health system has been modernized, the GDP has tripled, which is why the leader of Turkish political Islam has won almost all elections since 2002 despite his authoritarian drift.

For his conservative base, about 30% of the population, he remains the man “Providential”, the one who brought Turkey into the club of the 20 richest countries, the G20, and holds the West high thanks to its drone and gunboat diplomacy.

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A formidable political animal, the one his detractors describe as a new power-hungry sultan, has carved out a presidential system for himself in line with his ambitions. It is he who explains to women how many children they must bear, he who also appoints all the ministers and imposes his monetary policy. His dream is to leave his mark in history, like the founder of the Republic, Mustafa Kemal known as “Atatürk”, whose heritage he never ceases to deny.

Block against hyperpresidence

Recently, however, the tide has turned. In the 2019 municipal elections, his Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost several major cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, to the Kemalist opposition. Now, as the currency crisis and inflation hit households hard, the camp of its opponents has widened considerably.

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Kurds, center-right nationalists, Kemalists, even Islamists, such as former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and former Minister of Economy Ali Babacan, who co-founded the AKP in 2001, are trying to unite against hyper-presidency, “The diet of one man”, they say, deemed disastrous for the country. Losing popularity in the polls, Erdogan has until June 2023, the date of the next presidential and legislative elections, to regain his political health.

“Where is Turkey going? “, A special issue of” Le Monde “, 100 pages, 8.90 euros. On sale at newsstands and on Lemonde.fr

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Special edition “Le Monde”: Unpredictable Turkey