Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power in 2002, a year after the formation of his AK party. But spending 11 years as prime minister wasn’t enough. In 2011, Erdogan changed the system, clearing the way for him to become the country’s first directly elected president in 2013.
True to all incremental power grabs, he initially sold this move to Turks as merely “ceremonial.”
That facade has now ended.
After this month no one was left in any doubt as to Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman delusions of grandeur, as he pushed out Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu while maneuvering to replace him with a long-time crony. At one point his own son in law seemed a likely appointee.
To use the cliché “palace coup” would not even be metaphoric on my part. Perched atop a hill on the outskirts of Ankara sits Erdogan’s specially commissioned 1,000-room White Palace, or AK Saray. Bigger than the White House and the Kremlin, this Sultan-like extravagance cost even more than the budgeted $615m. And as Erdogan’s sultanate grows, so too does Erdogan’s sultan-like caprice.
Freedom House reports that Erdogan has been eroding freedom of the press in Turkey at an alarming rate over recent years. This unhinged crackdown on journalists culminated last month in the seizure and state takeover of opposition newspaper Zaman, which is now embarrassingly owned and operated by the Turkish state. Such has been Erdogan’s assault on journalists that even President Barack Obama felt the need to warn the authoritarian Erdogan to back off.
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