Global Independent Analytics
Miray Aslan
Miray Aslan

Location: Turkey

Specialization: Media, Politics

WHY IS OTTO(SUPER)MAN ERDOGAN LOSING HIS CHARISMA?

Erdogan was trying to be a hero in the region and he had succeeded for a while. However, finally critics say that he is losing his charisma. Here are some reasons why.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a good football player and was supposed to remain a footballer until his father apparently said he should not. Then he got involved in politics during his time in high school, and met Turkey's former first Islamist President Necmettin Erbakan during his university education. Erdogan became a district chairman of Erbakan's Welfare Party. His political career was on the rise when elected as mayor of Istanbul in 1994. Three years later when he was 33, he was sentenced to 10 months in jail and the Welfare Party was shut down due to Erdogan's reciting of a poem. His sentence was "on the grounds of threatening secularity, one of the Kemalist values of Turkey." The poem was written by an Ottoman poet Ziya Gokalp. It says:

The mosques are our barracks
the domes are our helmets
the minarets our bayonets
and the faithful our soldiers...

When Erdogan was released, he was already popular among the religious crowds. This is how the "the journey of hero" began. In August 2001 he founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP) with his friends, including Abdullah Gul, the previous President.

HITLER'S PRESIDENTAL SYSTEM

Erdogan described himself and his party as  “one of the homeless, voice of the voiceless, brother of the poor and underdogs," not only in Turkey but also for Muslims around the world. In 2003, AKP became the largest party in the general election. The party followed a "zero problem policy" on strategic relationships and had good affairs with its neighbors, caught a strong economic growth, tried to solve problems with all its minorities and promised to solve the Kurdish conflict in a democratic way. Many policies were reformed and Turkey was becoming a leading country. After Erdogan served as prime minister for 11 years, he become Turkey's first elected president with more than 51 percent vote.

Charismatic leader Erdogan was finally "the President."

However, it is never enough for the Otto(super)man,  the final circumstances show  that none of his reformist policies are working today, the government spent most of its energy on the Presidential System as Erdogan  wants to change the Turkish  constitution to turn the ceremonial role of the president into that of a chief executive. 400 deputies in Parliament are needed for a shift in the presidential system to be instituted. As AKP has 316 deputies Erdogan and AKP met the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), to make them agree to a presidential system.  None of these parties gave positive signs.

AKP is still angry with the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) which for the first time has entered parliament as a party, rather than as individual independent MPs therefore preventing AKP from gaining 400 MPs. Erdogan claims the system will help the country's development by eliminating "multi-headedness."  On December 31 speaking at a news conference about presidential systems he said: "there are already examples of this in the world. You can see it when you look at Hitler's Germany."

In a different speech Erdogan said: "Beloved friends, AKP is the nation itself and today is the day monopolistic leadership falls down.” This was said on August 14, 2001 when AKP was founded and he was elected as leader. These words spoken 15 years ago show the transformation of AKP since then which is the exact reason for his losing charisma.

WHERE IS THE BROTHER?

Moreover, Erdogan (and his party) became distant from being a "brother of underdogs."  Erdogan and his allies preferred a luxury lifestyle.  After becoming president Erdogan installed himself in the biggest residential palace in the world.  The Ak Saray (White House) Palace is 30 times larger than the White House in Washington.  Official cost of the palace is more than  $650 billion. According to the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects Chamber (TBMMO), Ak Saray chandeliers carry a $35 million price tag - the amount that could light up homes of 6 million people. The first lady, Emine Erdogan, was criticized by the Turkish Trade Union for ignoring Turkey's home-made products, shopping from expensive European boutiques.  According to La Capitale, a Belgian daily newspaper, when Emine Erdogan was shopping in one of the most expensive shops in Brussels a few mounts ago, her security team closed the shopping center's doors to other customers, promising that the shop will be fully compensated for the loss. Would you be surprised if I say that the most luxurious cars and homes and the most expensive watches belong to ministers and MPs of AKP? Clearly, Erdogan is so far from his humble beginning.

VOICE OR "NOISE"

Being the "voice of the voiceless" was another basic argument of Erdogan. However, nowadays in Turkey it is not easy to hear any voice except Erdogan's and his supporters.  Some believe it is better to stay voiceless as anyone who makes "noise" against Erdogan would easily be named "traitor" and imprisoned.  No secret, Erdogan is not flexible about critics.

According to a human right report released by the Republican People's Party (CHP), Turkey has weakened freedom of speech. 96,000 websites were blocked by the court in 2015, magazines and newspapers’ offices were raided by police, and 98 people were accused and sentenced for years in jail for insulting the head of state, including high-profile media figures.  A few cases of imprisonment:

Bahadır Baruter and Ozer Aydogan, two cartoonists of Penguin Magazine, due to a cartoon’s display of newly-elected Erdogan entering the presidential palace saying "at least we could have slaughtered a journalist."

Merve Buyuksarac, former Miss Turkey, due to posting a satirical poem on Instagram  named "Master's Poem." Erdogan is called "the Big Master," among his supporters.

Nokta Newsweekly Magazine, on accusations of "propagating terror" and "insulting the president" by a cover drawn with a smiling Erdogan taking a selfie with the coffin of soldier in background. The image a clear to reference escalated tensions between the outlawed rebel group Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and security forces.

Hakan Sukur, one of the Turkey's most popular  footballers and ex-member of AKP, due to insulting Erdogan.

Bilgin Ciftci, a physician, accused of insulting Erdogan after he compared images of the president to Smeagol/Gollum, the character from "The Lord of the Rings." Film's director Peter Jankson issued a statement that the images posted were actually of Smeagol, Gollum's alter ego.

All of them are shown as ungrateful figures by state-run media.  Finally, awarded journalists Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, have been arrested for  “procuring information as to state security, declaring confidential information, propagandizing terror organization," due to news and images they displayed of National Intelligence Agency (MIT) trucks.

The summary of the new policy of the government is so clear:

If you are not pro-Erdogan then you are anti-Erdogan;

if you are anti-Erdogan then you are anti-religion;

if you are anti-religion then you are anti-government;

and if you are anti-government than you are a traitor.

Is there anything wrong with imprisoning traitors? (Note that: if you are for traitors than you are a traitor).

EXPERT OPINION

Danny Haiphong

It is interesting that Erdogan has campaigned historically as a man of the people and a "voice of the voiceless." His regime has presided over the repressive imprisonment of journalists and even the complete shutdown of social media in the country. This makes his campaign image very ironic. One point about Erdogan's political legacy that must be addressed is his foreign policy. On the one hand, Erdogan has privileged Turkish expansion as part of an independent "Neo Ottoman" project. Yet on the other, his party's foreign policy has worked hand in hand with Washington, Israel, and Saudi Arabia's regime change agenda in the region. Erdogan's direct support for terrorist proxies in Syria has been the lynchpin of the regime change agenda in Syria in particular. What is not yet known is whether Turkey will maintain its status as one of the least dependable states in the imperialist alliance. As Washington regroups after setbacks in Syria and Saudi Arabia begins to intensify conflict with Iran, Turkey's hopes for expansion may have to be put on hold. Whether Erdogan's regime can accept this remains to be seen.

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